Water for slums

 
Published: Tuesday 30 November 1999

Water for slums

The residents of Kuil Thothom, a slum tenement in Santhome, Chennai, have a lot to be thankful to the Rotary Club of Madras Central, especially R Jeyakumar, its chairperson. The club helped in bringing clean water to their homes.

The need to explore the possibility of rooftop rainwater harvesting in the slums was raised at the June meeting of builders, organised by the Chennai branch of the National Water Harvesters' Network (nwhn). The network was begun by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (cse) as part of its "people's management of water" programme. Jeyakumar, a builder, took the initiative and mobilised funds from the club to purchase a 3,000-litre tank to collect the water harvested in the area.

The slum comprises 320 tenements -- eight tenements to a block. Rainwater from each rooftop is collected, filtered and stored in the tank. This water, which is meant for drinking (after further purification), cooking and other domestic applications, is then supplied to the houses.

The rainwater harvesting technology adopted here incorporates a catchment area of about 3.4 sq metres on the terrace. The accumulated rainwater is diverted to a separate pipe, which regulates the flow into the filtration tank. The water then passes through the filtration tank into the main tank.

"The slum-dwellers were really happy," Jeyakumar says. "Although I had some apprehensions about whether this water would be accepted for drinking purposes, the people had no hesitation at all."

Encouraged by this success, he plans to provide each household in the slum with similar structures. "All that is needed is a terrace of 45.5 sq metres. This will give 25 litres per day during the five summer months and non-stop water for the rest of the year," says R Ramani of Kottur, who has been using rainwater for four years.

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