A rainwater-harvesting project being developed by the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) in India could go a long way in bringing succour to the parched lands of Rajasthan. The Rs.10-million project is being implemented within the BITS campus and two villages near the institute. People associated with the project hope to complete their task by June, just in time to utilise this year’s monsoon rains.
A 12-member BITS team, including students and faculty members from the civil engineering department, has been working on the project for over six months.
“Our project will double up as a water reservoir and will also recharge the groundwater,” said A.P. Singh, assistant professor in civil engineering in BITS. Outlining the technique, Singh said trenches are built across the village to collect the rainwater, which is then directed into underground tanks that are all linked with pipes. Any extra water is sent to a spare tank, which helps the water seep into the ground, thereby raising the water table.
“We used geographical information system (GIS) to determine the elevations and depressions in a terrain,” said Singh.
He said the tanks were laid after studying the GIS surveys so that all parts of the villages get equal amount of water. The two villages, Raila and Jhereli, where the pilot project would be implemented lie in a six-km radius of the BITS campus. While Raila has a population of 600 people, Jhereli has around 1,500 occupants. Singh said the two villages posed the best challenge for their project as they did not have any canal to recharge underground aquifers. “The groundwater here was found at a depth of 225 feet below the surface and recedes one inch every year,” Singh said.
He said the villagers, mostly small farmers, were unaware of their depleting ground water and were counting on the government to provide them water for irrigation and other uses. Routed through BITS’ alumni in the US, the development is being completely funded by the Rajasthan Association of North America (RANA).The Rajasthan government, under former chief minister Ashok Gehlot, had given its approval for BITS to solely develop the project.
Rajasthan has the largest portion of the Thar desert, which covers around 446,000 sq km and stretches to three other Indian states and two provinces of Pakistan. The average annual rainfall in the region varies from 100 to 500 millimetres. The rainfall is distributed very erratically and occurs mostly between July and September. Although BITS is developing the water harvesting technique, it has collaborated with various NGOs to spread the project across Rajasthan, which has a rich tradition of rainwater harvesting.