This retired scientist has been leading the water conservation battle in Hyderabad for over 20 yearsHema Vaishnavi
Retired scientist Murli Sharma has been using rainwater for all his water needs the past two decades
With increasing water shortage in urban areas, many are turning to water tankers that fetch water from faraway locations, in the process spending thousands of rupees each year.
Murli Sharma, a septuagenarian, from Hyderabad, is rejecting the conventional methods and going the traditional and trusted route of meeting water needs from rainwater. He has been harvesting rainwater the past twenty years now and hasn’t felt the need to dig a well or a bore till today.
Conserving rain water
Murli, who hails from the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, shares that he never faced this acute shortage of water even in Jodhpur, which is known to receive rainfall as low as 2-3mm.
“I was brought up in Jodhpur and compared to Hyderabad, it gets very less rainfall. But during my childhood I never felt the need to fetch potable water, I never faced any problem in my place. But when I came to Hyderabad, for the first time I saw in an urban area that water shortage can be a big factor,” he says.
Water shortage is an issue that began because the supply system was planned for a population that was not seen to be multiplying manifold. By the time Murli was moving to Hyderabad, in the early nineties, the population was nearly 30 lakh, and the water supply system could only support a population of 10 lakh people.
“During that time when my parents were visiting me my mother pointed out that if I wanted to settle here, it would make sense for me to build a house like I did in ancient times in Rajasthan. To conserve rain water from the roof of the house, store in the open court yard of the house in a big tank,” Murli,who is a botanist and an ecologist, recalls.
Murli built himself a house in Hyderabad in 1995, and modelled to harvest rain water. Instead of an open courtyard, he built a tank below the house.
At a time when rainwater harvesting was merely a theoretical approach in areas such as Hyderabad, which has abundant rainfall, with an average rainfall of 800mm annually, Murli decided to conserve rain water from the roof and store it below the house in an underground tank.
The roof gives nearly 1.25 lakh litres rain water every year with the average rainfall. The house is designed in such a way that the rain water from the roof comes down by a PVC pipe and it passes through a filter and goes into a big underground tank, which has a capacity to hold over one lakh litre of water.
Pure water round the year
Murli, who is a retired scientist from ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics), says that he even tested the quality of rain water in his lab and found it to be better than the water supplied from the municipal water.
Murli and his family use the same water for drinking, cooking, their daily use and even maintain a small kitchen garden out front. “We do not boil this water or we do not treat the water. We use it directly from the tank,” he says. And the used water from the house goes into the stock pit.
If even 50-60percent houses in Hyderabad lead their used water into stock pit, the city will have very stable ground water, he advocates.
“We citizens do not realise the value of water, as it is a highly subsidised commodity in our country. Water is not just an issue of the government; it is an issue concerning every citizen. Public must come forward, take action and help ourselves,” he adds.
Murli Sharma talks about his neighbour’s house, where the roof accumulated enough water for it to become a menace to deal with. The two came up with an idea to direct the rainwater from the neighbour’s place to Murli’s underground tank.
“Water from the two roofs put together we conserve 2.50 lakh litre rain water every year,” says Murli Sharma.
Murli, who always wanted to build an eco-friendly house, made sure that the house was built using as little cement as possible and using mud bricks, which helps the house remain cool during summers.
Murli has been using rainwater for his needs for the past 20 years. He hasn't used municipal water the past two decades and is now actively spreading the importance of rainwater harvesting. He conducts workshops on a regular basis and is changing the landscape of his neighbourhood, where people are actively taking up his idea. The impact of his activities is quite evident in some parts of the city. For instance, people in the regions of Sainikpuri and RK Puram have adopted the rainwater harvesting method and there is a significant increase in the ground water levels in the region.