River From The Sky – Akash Ganga

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Sat, Feb 19, 2011 — Jaideep Majumdar



The burgeoning population across the world stretches the fund resources to the optimum levels in order to provide sustenance to the lives of people. Through scientific and technological advancements made each day people look forward to a progressively better standard of living. The economics of a better quality of life is very much skewed and while some can attain betterment through individual initiatives and resources there are many for whom affordability is a serious issue and concerted group efforts have to be directed to bring about a visible change to their lives.

Water is a resource which covers the major portion of our planet, yet access to clean drinking water is something which does not happen naturally to a sizeable population of the world. Innovation, enterprise and skill have to be applied to provide clean drinking water to people in many areas which are climatically not well endowed. Frugal rainfall in the geographically arid regions of the world makes it extremely difficult to quench the thirst of the people. It is in such a backdrop that a social initiative on Rain Water Harvesting has drawn attention of the world.

Named as Akash Ganga - the rain water harvesting system has been implemented in six drought prone districts of Rajasthan. The system channelizes rooftop rain water from every house in a community, through gutters and pipes to a network of multi-tier underground reservoirs. The basic strategy followed by Akash Ganga is to form public-private-community partnership or social enterprise to provide drinking water to the people. Roofs are taken on rent from owners to harvest rooftop rainwater. The local panchayat (local government) leases around 10000 sq m of land free of cost next to the shared community reservoir. Post-implementation the upkeep and holistic sustainability-social, cultural, economic, institutional, political, operational and ecological are looked after by a social volunteer. Half the quantity of the rain water harvested from the roof is for the exclusive use of the home owner while the rest flows to the community reservoir. Those who cannot afford their own reservoir access water from the shared community reservoir.

Rain Water Harvesting

While in many cases tradition has shackled us in customs and rituals which have stunted advancement and growth, Akash Ganga is an initiative which adopts cultural traditions and combines it with social bonding to create social capital. Stretching this further, Akash Ganga has been studied by the engineers at BITS and they have automated its design network by using satellite image, information technology and geographical information systems. The automation helped in eliminating surveys, saved time and pinpointed to the locations for reservoirs. The benefits which accrued out of the use of technology included - minimizing earth work, ensured water flow by gravity and reduced material cost which accounts for 70 to 80 % of the total cost.

BP Agarwal the president of Sustainable Innovations is a social entrepreneur who is the brain behind Akash Ganga. His efforts fetched him the $ 100,000 Lemelson-MIT award for Sustainability in the year 2010. The Akash Ganga system provides fresh water to 10,000 people in Rajasthan. The Government of Rajasthan has recently signed a letter of intent to implement the system in 50 villages to make clear drinking water available to another 1,25,000 people. Plans are on for extending it to 100 villages by 2012.

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