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Deccan Herald » Panorama » Detailed Story
Schools can reap the harvest
By Jayalakshmi K
Schools can deploy rainwater harvesting systems and take a lead in educating the people on the subject.
Schools need so many things - teachers, students, blackboards, benches... and plenty of water. For drinking, for cleaning and washing, for gardening, and so on. Considering that there are over 5000 schools in the city alone, with student strength ranging from 100 to few thousands, the water requirements can well be imagined.

Most have borewells on their premises for which a nominal amount is charged every month. Sadly, not all schools have realised the potential for rainwater harvesting in their premises. Yet. However, there are some schools that have embraced the practice and are reaping the harvest.

Helping them are individuals and organisations. Among the latter is Tata Energy Institute of India (Teri). Through its MY WATER (Mobilizing Youth for WATER conservation) project, it has been taking the concept of rainwater harvesting to schools.

While the initial costs may seem a bit prohibitive, most schools are happy with the results.

For instance, at Frank Anthony's Public School, it cost around Rs one lakh to harvest water from 5500 sq feet.

A part of this charge was met up by a sponsor that Teri helped find. The water here is used to recharge an old open well with the idea of benefitting everyone with the consequent groundwater recharge.

Principal Browne, who is committed to the environment cause, says he was not much for hoarding the water and being selfish.

"It makes sense for everyone to go for rainwater harvesting. We collect around 4 lakh litres every monsoon. This was water which was simply going waste and flooding the playground. All it required was for the water outlets from the roof to be connected and the water to be carried away to the well."

Vidyaniketan Public School is undergoing the process for about 7500 sq ft at a cost of Rs 1, 69,000. "The main cost is that of the storage tank," says Rashmi Gopal of Teri.

The Kendriya Vidyalaya at Hebbal is using the water harvested for toilets and gardening. The costs for 3200 sq ft came to Rs 85,000. The school has also made use of 'tippy taps' where water flows from a big can in a thin stream, allowing many people to use the water at the same time.

Systems for rainwater harvesting have been put in place in four other KVs in the city.

The rwh systems implementation at the schools was done by M/s Farmland Rainwater Harvesting Systems Pvt ltd. Contact persons are Vijayraj -9448130524 and Michael - 9448076595.

With large rooftop areas, rainwater harvesting is the ideal option for at least the non-potable water requirements.

On an average, an annual rainwater yield of 6, 30,000 litres would be available. This is the water that usually goes waste, down the concrete and into the storm drains causing flooding of areas too.

Teri has a word of caution though for anyone going for rainwater harvesting. Go for quality pipes, valves and filters that would not need the frequent repairing which a low cost system may incur. While initial costs may seem a bit high for just a few odd pipes and labour, this is for life. It does not need any major reconstruction. Yearly twice maintenance at very less cost is all that is needed.

By using filters, contamination with sewage can be prevented. This in turn would mean that the load on sewage treatment plants will go down.

While most schools would not want to take the risk of the students using anything but the most clean water, rainwater harvesting can provide even this when used with a couple of filters.

After implementing the concept, it is equally important to monitor the system for leaks, faults, etc. For schools, it would be a good idea to actively involve children as a first hand experience of doing something for the environment. As long as there is water available at cheaper rates, it will be a difficult proposition to get people to adopt new systems.

But schools, as the font of education and values, can take a lead in this to make people more aware of the pressing problems in water conservation and management. The present kind of flooding seen in Mumbai would not have happened for instance if every citizen and institution had a system in place to collect the rainwater and drain it into the ground!

Can there be a better way to educate the masses than to start at school and with the children?
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