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Officials to inspect if RWAs harvesting rain

Times of India, Delhi, 9th July 2014

Residents welfare associations can soon expect government officials to make inspections of rainwater harvesting structures in their colonies. After National Green Tribunal formed a committee on Friday to take stock of rainwater harvesting (RWH) in the city and directed it to conduct site visits to each RWA to check the condition of RWH structures, if any, the environment department is all set to coordinate this mammoth exercise. Four teams with two officials in each will be making site visits in all districts starting later this week. Officials say the month's time given by NGT to submit the report is too little to cover the entire city.

Agencies are also worried about some practical issues. The bench has directed: "Any public body, corporations, authorities and the government will not allot land to any society or issue completion certificate or occupancy certificate for any house unless it contains the stipulation that rain harvesting system should be installed and made operational. In such occupancy or allotment letter issued, this condition should be satisfied and it is required to be recorded by the authority concerned after personal inspection."

The environment department had submitted to NGT that it is not equipped to monitor RWH structures in Delhi. "We have only four technical officers. How can they monitor so many areas? We feel the responsibility should be given to the land owning agency or corporation who anyway visit new constructions," said a senior official from the environment department. Delhi Jal Board has also not started enforcing RWH on a large scale. In most places including Chennai and Bangalore, the water supplying agency is responsible for RWH, though in Mumbai it's the municipal corporation.

DJB cites a staff crunch to explain why it will be unable to supervise RWH. An official said, "The department is already stretched to the limit and has to handle other works like metering, supplying of water, maintenance of infrastructure, etc. It just does not have the resources to monitor implementation of rainwater harvesting."

Delhi needs a rainwater policy first and a plan to have RWH structures that can be monitored easily, say experts. "I think Delhi should look at largescale structures at the colony level where there can be underground rainwater harvesting pits in parks and other open spaces..They should tap wetlands, storm water drains and parks.

Each colony can see to it that no sewage enters their storm water drains so that they can be used for recharge. The government can institutionalize a monitoring system easily for these," Nitya Jacob,head of policy, WaterAid India, said.

The committee formed by NGT consists of officials from Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Delhi Jal Board, Delhi government and Central Ground-Water Board.