This year World Environment Day is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Among grave environmental concerns around the world, it is important to know and understand them. CitySpidey talked to Colonel (Retd) Shashikant Dalvi(74), National Coordinator (Water Conservation) Climate Reality Project India.
Col. Dalvi is working for the last 19 years in the field of environment. He has been working to spread awareness about rainwater conservation. "Water is the most important part of the environment and god gives us resource in the form of rain. So, it’s very important to save this precious gift." says he. Through his efforts, Col. Dalvi is conserving water by rainwater harvesting system.
Q.1- When did you start your journey as an environmentalist and what motivated you?
Ans- I started my journey of being an environmentalist by accident. I retired from Army on 01 Mar 2002 and settled in Viman Nagar, a suburb of Pune. Our society was new and residents elected me as 'Chairman of the Soviet Management Committee'. The first thing I noticed was a water shortage and dependency on water tanker. Society was spending Rs 25,000/- per month on it.Only borewell of the society depth of water table was at 225 ft, with a yield of 30 min.
Then, I decided to implement a rooftop rainwater harvesting system in our society, with the approval of all members. Fortunately, they supported me. In May 2003, we implemented the RWH system based on my design. We were able to collect around 9 lakh liters of rooftop rainwater and channel it into our borewell, through filters. From 2003, our society became tanker water-free, first in Pune City and in the state of Maharashtra. This helped, our borewell yield rising to 10 hours per day. The ground water table was finally raised. Thus started my journey to work for the environment.
Q. 2- What is the process to set up this rooftop water harvesting system and what is its cost?
Ans- The cost depends totally on the area and how much material it will take to set up this system at home or in society. Obviously, if anyone wants to set up this at home, it will charge less and for the whole society, the cost will increase. Even in some societies, 4-5 systems need to be set up because the area is large. However, I will tell you the steps of the setup. Also, people living in Delhi and other parts of the country can also install this system at their homes and societies by taking municipal corporations' office help.
1. Survey of the property, this will help calcite, rainwater potential, System design, cost of the system, time, and cost to implement the system.
2. Finalising the design in consultation with the Society Committee.
3. Issue of the work order.
4. Initiate the work and it will take 1-2 months to set up according to the area.
Q.3- How to maintain this system and how effective is it?
Ans- Our system is simple, doable, and economical, with very little maintenance. The system needs little care before the monsoon. I have been working in this field since 2003, making our society in Pune tanker water-free since then. Kindly check my portfolio, which I have shared for more info. This is an age-old technique. Indians were known as the world's oldest rainwater harvesters. Our old forts still have functional systems.
Q. 4- What according to you is the biggest environmental threat today?
Ans- Based on my 19 years of field experience, the scarcity of water is the biggest environmental threat. Food security, Health security, and Economic Security, all depend on WATER. India gets only 4 % World's fresh water, for a population of 18% of the World's. Because of misuse and neglect, our surface water is totally contaminated, our Groundwater extraction is the highest in the world, rapidly depleting the groundwater table. Even NITI Aayog reports that 21 major cities are facing zero groundwater status. Rising Global Warming is giving rise to extreme climatic events, adversely affecting farm produce, damage to infrastructure, and loss of soil due to heavy floods.
Q.5- How can it be overcomed? And what do you think a commoner can do to help the environment?
Ans- Everyone must change their lifestyle, and incorporate Reuse, Recycle, segregating, conserving, minimizing the use of plastic, associating with local tree plantation drive, and say no to water body pollution, and use public transport. Every citizen must ensure efforts to raise the depleting groundwater table, starting from their own house, office, and society.
Q. 6 What are your current aims?
Ans- My focus is to raise the depleting groundwater tables in rural and urban areas of the country. Along with this, tree plantation and cleaning of natural bodies. When you start working in a direction to save one element of the environment automatically you are working for others too.
Q.7- What are some of the environmental projects that you have taken up?
Ans- Presently, I and my team are working on Jal Atmanirbhar Abhiyan, in 100 villages of Beed District, Maharashtra. We are planning to complete this in the next 4 to 5 months.
Once completed, it will help channelise 26 crore liters of rooftop rainwater, annually, from these 100 villages, raising rapidly depleting groundwater tables. Also, we are planting more than 2,25,000 trees in this village. This will help restore the biodiversity of the district, and will generate additional income for the farmers by selling fruits. Also the trees will increase rainwater percolation and raise the groundwater table.
Q.8- Do you think the government is doing enough to give importance to dealing with these issues?
Ans- Govt at the top level does make policies in this regard. However, there is a lack of implementation. It is important that the work starts at full pace in urban areas too to solve the water problem as soon as possible. Already the nation is facing lots of problems related to water and it's important to work in this area.
Q.9- What will be our future if people do not start working towards mitigating climate change?
Ans- In case we do not take corrective measures, it will result in an unchecked rise in Global Warming, giving rise to very extreme climatic events, many of which we are facing even now, all over India.
In case all stakeholders including governments at all levels must work individually and collectively, then we will move on the path of restoration environment. However such should be continuous efforts, then only we will get positive results.
Q.10 -As an environmentalist, what message do you want to convey to the readers?
Ans- I am no authority to appeal, however as a student of environment, I feel now is the time to work to help our Mother Nature, restore the natural assets to their full glory. Like our biological mother, we must take care of Mother Nature. Plant trees, install this system in homes and societies, keep your area clean and save water. Also, take a stand for the environment at your level, if anyone near you causing harm to the environment.