Wednesday, October 6, 2021

My City My Responsibility - Harvesting rainwater for the Dry days!

 Dear All, 

Collage of some of the photos

Being a part of the Climate Reality Project, I happened to connect with Shivam Singh, a young enthusiast working on tree plantation and the founder of a startup ExploreiT, working for youth empowerment and environmental activism. 

Currently he is also assisting Col. Shashikant Dalvi, a retired army officer, working tirelessly for incorporating rainwater harvesting in housing societies of Pune and the founder of Parjanya Rainwater Harvesting Consultancy. He is currently focused on making the rural areas around Pune water resilient, through his association with the Climate Reality Project. One such initiative lead to installation of rainwater harvesting systems in four villages namely Kurvandi, Thugaon, Bavadi, Karegaon on Pune Nashik road. 

I got an opportunity to visit these villages, and was accompanied by Dr Prassana Jogdeo, Co-founder of Lemnion Green Solutions, Radhika Dhingra, Director of  Badlaav Social Reform Foundation. and her colleague Munira. Mr. Anirudh Todkar, CEO, MAPS Industries Pune, a dynamic personality responsible for implementation of the RWH System also accompanied us. 

The first village we visited was Karegaon, where we met the Sarpanch Mrs. Suvarna Gevade. She was very happy to greet us. Radhika spoke to her about Sustainable Menstruation practices and she seemed very approachable. Since a lot of young women in the villages use sanitary napkins. The disposal of used sanitary napkins is creating a menace in cities, in spite of the waste management systems being in place. In villages, this is creating a bigger disaster, with a potential to contaminate water sources. Hence, Radhika briefed the Sarpanch on cloth pads as well as menstrual cup and its usage. 

Potatoes left to dry

Another thing observed was though the villagers have good access to LPG supply, every house had a traditional Chulha working on fuelwood. Here I briefly spoke about Samuchit's smokeless cookstoves. The Sarpanch was quite keen on this. The village women seemed open to change their day to day practices for betterment of their quality of life. 

I was fascinated to know that the villages were self sustaining from livelihood perspective due to the interventions by PepsiCo under the Contract Farming Agreement for growing potatoes. All the villagers were involved in this market driven agricultural practice. Though this looks like a win win situation, growing the same crop every year, in order to cater to the urban luxury market needs (and thereby neglecting local food security) may have several adverse consequences. It may cause soil quality degradation and environmental impacts due to lack of diversification in crops in the long run. Also in the face of climate change, the lack of local food security may increase vulnerability of the communities. As the monsoon pattern is totally being affected by climate change, agriculture across India is greatly affected. This may lead to larger fluctuations in food prices going ahead. Growing sufficient food for own consumption is therefore a better strategy for a farming community. 

Discussion on Sustainable Menstruation
However, the villagers seemed to be very happy for their improved standard of living, and seemed less bothered about the cost of INR 3,000,000/- every month from January to June/July to tanker in water for domestic use. Currently the local government is bearing the cost, but this is an unsustainable practice. Here the setup of Rooftop rainwater harvesting systems installed through the inputs of Col. Dalvi and Mr. Todkar play a crucial role. The rooftop rainwater harvesting systems were set such that they recharged the existing borewells, which would help recharge the aquifer and raise the groundwater level. It is expected that this will at least partially if not fully fulfill the water requirements of the villagers during the next summer season. 

I felt that corporates like PepsiCo come to such villages with attractive proposals without giving any consideration to the prevailing ecological and social conditions in the village. Such villages turn to be neither a village nor a city, but get stuck somewhere in between. 
Traditional fuelwood cookstoves
Col. Dalvi believes that rain water harvesting is just a beginning. We can slowly support these villages into becoming self sustaining, socially, ecologically and economically.  Since the villagers are open to new ideas and are ready to make the shift, I felt its worthwhile to undertake a few sessions on specific topics with the villagers. Another woman Sarpanch Mrs Manisha Totre also met her along with local ASHA workers and members of women's SHGs. They are also keen to host us for a session on Sustainable menstruation and smokeless cooking stoves soon.  

Discussion on smokeless cookstoves
Overall it was great visit, the weather was in our favour - it was pleasant and did not rain. Five of us had interesting discussions on overall environmental issues related to w
aste management and political outlook. 

I am thankful to Shivam for organizing this visit and Col. Dalvi for his enthusiasm in explaining to us the overall system and my fellow colleagues for interesting discussions. 

Pournima Agarkar.