: The Rain Centre (Akash Ganga Trust)

Discussion Forum

1 of 3: City ordinance

By Peer Water Exchange Posted on Mon 19 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Dear Sekhar-anna,

Welcome to PWX! You and your organization will be a great asset to the exchange and we look forward to learning from you.

I have 3 areas of discussion with you and the community about your work and will break it up into 3 separate conversations.

The first is regarding the Chennai ordinance to make rainwater harvesting mandatory. Now Bangalore and others are following suit.

How much did you and your colleagues have to do with the passage of this law?
How effective is this? How is it enforced? (In Bangalore it is hard to enforce)
And more than enforced, how is it verified? Long-term operation of systems to ensure they are still working to spec?
What can you share so that this type of goverance grows deep roots and spreads?

Thanks,
Rajesh

1 of 3: City ordinance

By The Rain Centre (Akash Ganga Trust) Posted on Mon 26 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Dear Rajesh,
You have raised very important and relevant questions and in the process given me lot of homework. I have answered a few questions in this reply and try to answer the remaining in my next reply.

Regarding the Chennai ordinance, we were instrumental in giving the idea to the government but did not play any role in preparing the draft. The ordinance was made only after a year of awareness raising. Let me tell you the events in chronological order.

In June 2001, the AIADMK party came to power and posted a very senior committed person as the Water Supply secretary. She formed a high-level committee with senior IAS officers. I was the only person from an NGO to be inducted into the committee, which met on every Monday to plan out activities related to promoting and popularizing RWH in the entire state of Tamil Nadu. Lot of awareness raising activities was carried out in the entire state for almost fifteen months before making it mandatory on October 10, 2002. Preparation of the ordinance was done simultaneously but I was not involved in that exercise.

In the meantime in August 2002, the Chief Minister inaugurated the Rain Centre and announced to the media on the very same day that a law making RWH mandatory will come into effect in the next two months.

Residents were given one year time to get it implemented with the threat that Municipal supply of water will be disconnected to all those who fail to implement it. Unfortunately, people did not know there was a law and by the time they were told about it, it was a bit late and people had only a month and a half to implement RWH in their respective homes. It was revealed in a survey carried out by our centre, immediately after the deadline (August 31, 2003), that only 50% of the residents had implemented RWH reasonably well.

In another survey carried out by us in Jan 2006 (after Chennai received a record rainfall), it was revealed that the water table in the entire city had risen by 6 metres in some localities to 8 metres in some others. The quality of groundwater had also improved considerably all these in spite of only 50% of the residents implementing it well. In 2003 it was enforced with the threat that municipal water would be disconnected if RWH is not implemented. Now, in all (new) subsequent constructions this is not enforced so strongly and a bribe is exchanged.

It is difficult to enforce so far as there is corruption among the bureaucrats. We have been requesting the government to appoint the Rain Centre as an independent monitoring agency to monitor all new constructions and submit a report based on which the government can take action. The govt. is not willing to do this. In Bangalore also Arghyam should make a similar plea with the govt. so that the builders will take RWH much more seriously.

In our survey, we realized that the residents were totally ignorant about what kind of RWH system has been put in place and their locations. We helped them locate the structures in almost all the 310 plots but could not verify their depths. We have also been insisting with the govt. that only empty recharge wells will have to be put as RWH structures so that they can be verified by removing the lid.

Sekhar

2 of 3: Aligning the private sector

By Peer Water Exchange Posted on Mon 19 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

One of the actions i was most impressed with was (as per my understanding) the bringing together of 15 private contractors to use the same rates, so that it would be easy for apartments (about 300!) to get a quote and choose a contractor and get the RWH work (mandatory by law) done.

How did you manage this?
How many contractors did not participate?
How is the agreement working now? Is the coalition growing or shrinking?

One area i see PWX helping is with the long-term operations of each system so that quality and skill of contractors can be tracked.

Thanks,
Rajesh

2 of 3: Aligning the private sector

By The Rain Centre (Akash Ganga Trust) Posted on Tue 27 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Dear Rajesh,

Answers for some more of your queries.

The 15 of them were not all contractors. Some of them were plumbers and a few others masons. We gave an advertisement in the tamil dailies that lot of RWH jobs are likely to come up and that they can make money executing them. We had also mentioned that a half-day workshop will be organized free of charge to train them. We had also said that lunch will be provided.

In addition to the advertisement we requested a few hardware shops to circulate this information among plumbers and masons known to them. We did this workshop twice and collected about 30 of them and were finally left with only 15. We distributed a small instruction manual in tamil explaining RWH step by step. They were told about the rates they should charge for various activities. This exercise proved to be very useful since residents were frantically looking for plumbers and masons when the deadline was approaching. There used to be 30 visitors to our centre everyday and an equal number of telephone calls asking for a resource person. Depending on the locality of the resident we used to depute the resource person living nearby.

August 31, 2003 was the deadline and on September 1 there were no visitors to the centre and no telephone calls. Since then we have not got that many calls. People are under the impression that it is all over. We now work with just 2 contractors. There are only a few calls at present. Interestingly, RWH is now being implemented as a flood mitigation measure. Churches, Colleges, Entertainment halls etc are getting flooded very often these days. Along with CMWSSB we are now organizing awareness meetings to sensitise the residents about the need to maintain their RWH structures.

Sekhar

Role of the Akash Ganga Trust within the PWX network

By Bank-On-Rain Posted on Tue 10 Jan 2012, almost 11 years ago

Dear Sekhar (and Rajesh),

The concept of the Rain Centre as a demonstration of RWH seems to have been a successful one, but I am still puzzled how this fits withing the PWX organization. Is the idea that similar demonstration centers should be established elsewhere, would PWX undertake financing of the Chennai Rain Centre and perhaps other such demonstrations, or would these demonstration centers function as reviewers of funding applications by implementing organizations?

The answers to these questions are central to the evaluation assigned to reviewers and, in my mind I do not think the discussion to date has provided sufficient clarity of mission to evaluate and score the application. If I have missed the point, I apologize, but would appreciate a definitive mission statement.

Best regards,
Mike

Re: Role of the Akash Ganga Trust within the PWX network

By Peer Water Exchange Posted on Wed 11 Jan 2012, almost 11 years ago

Hi Mike,

You have answered some of the questions yourself!

AGT could help create / shape similar demonstration / training centers. We have funded Aqua Clara and A Single Drop to build such training centers in Africa.

And as you mention, getting folks with such experience to be part of design and review of implementers would be welcome.

There are a few more ways where it makes sense for AGP to be a member of PWX (and some are about what PWX can do for AGP):

- provide a forum to share learnings widely
- showcase their projects, both urban RWH (where PWX has little data) and sanitation
- manage their projects to show long-term operation and issues
- see if we can get urban 'beneficiaries' (such as the building manager or committee) to report on project status via SMS - maybe in parallel with our plan to get rural project beneficiaries to report
- easier to get 3rd party reports for urban projects (including potentially you!)
- create a setting where future AGP projects and designs can be shared so that private implementations can also be tracked.

There are many benefits in bringing folks and their projects together on a common exchange.

Regards,
Rajesh

Re: Role of the Akash Ganga Trust within the PWX network

By Bank-On-Rain Posted on Wed 11 Jan 2012, almost 11 years ago

Rajesh,

Thank you for the clarification. This could be the starting of a new focus within PWX, urban water/sanitation where the potential number of beneficiaries to each project could be enormous.

Exciting stuff!

Best regards,
Mike

Re: Role of the Akash Ganga Trust within the PWX network

By Peer Water Exchange Posted on Wed 11 Jan 2012, almost 11 years ago

Beneficiary counting in urban stuff is a good challenge.
Unlike rural, they usually have access to water and filtration.
So the projects work on a level for the common good:
- reducing dependency
- reducing burden on water source / distribution system
- reducing power consumption
- recharging groundwater (for commons)
- reducing runoff and flooding
- creating community

It is hard to state that the beneficiaries for example of an apartment complex are the number of residents, but it would be good to figure out a relevant number. Good discussion to have.

Regards,
Rajesh

Please clarrify what the current status of Akash Gange Chennai is?

By Bank-On-Rain Posted on Sun 18 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Welcome Akash Ganga to the peer water review. Here we all try and learn from each other and you are really going to like this clarification process.

I have looked at your website and I am not sure my understanding of what you do is quite clear. Your links to other projects and similar type organizations, is in a way somewhat misleading, IMO. I understand you are just an information center focused on rain collection and storage. I understand your focus is not being an installer of systems but giving the "how to" information to others, with a special focus on contractors who might do this. You have some quite good posters but it would seem they were created by another similar organization and just have your logo on them?

I understand you have your own building which is an "information" center and you wish to install a demonstration rainwater collection and storage system at this center using your own roof. Please elaborate?

Please let me know if I am on the right track with my understanding, and I hope my clarification of my question above to you has not been confusing?

I really like how you point out how simple rainwater collection is!

CASUDI

Please clarrify what the current status of Akash Gange Chennai is?

By The Rain Centre (Akash Ganga Trust) Posted on Mon 19 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Dear Casudi,
Thanks for your comments on our profile.
At the outset let me inform you that our website has not been updated in the six years. It was originally referred to as www.raincentre.org and was maintained by one of our trustees living in the U.S. Two years back we had to change our website name to www.raincentre.net . We need help to update the website. We have done lot of work in the last six years which will have to be uploaded onto our site.
I do not understand your remark “Your links to other projects and similar type organizations, is in a way somewhat misleading”. Please clarify.
Our Rain centre is a one-stop information and assistance centre for rainwater harvesting. This centre, the first of its kind in our country, was inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in August 2002. The three objectives of the centre are:
1. Creating awareness about the need, relevance and importance of rainwater harvesting among various sections of the urban society.
2. Helping the residents to implement RWH within their premises with trained plumbers and masons. (we do not thrust our resource people on the residents: if they have their own people to execute the job, we work with them also.)
3. Carrying out surveys and studies to assess the efficacy of Rainwater Harvesting.

The posters were made by our trustee in the U.S. for their audience and it contains more than our rain centre activities. He has talked about a few other rainwater harvesters in the entire country.

We have implemented rainwater harvesting in our rain centre and demonstrated both collection of rainwater in masonry tanks for immediate use and also directed the overflow water from the tank into an open well for recharge purposes. In another place in the rain centre we have put up a loft tank to collect the roof water and use it in our toilet on rainy days.

Sekhar Raghavan, Director, Rain Centre, Chennai, India

Please clarrify what the current status of Akash Gange Chennai is?

By Bank-On-Rain Posted on Mon 19 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Thank you so much Sekhar Raghaven for your quick response. I have a much better understanding where you are today. When do you plan to update your website?

The trustees you mention in the US, do they also support you financially or what part do they play in your organization? By the way I really like the posters.

Do you have any record of how many rainwater collection systems have been installed as a result of your (the centers) guidance?

These may appear to be other questions however they are part of the clarification of your current status.

Thank you in advance for the continuing clarrification
CASUDI

Please clarrify what the current status of Akash Gange Chennai is?

By The Rain Centre (Akash Ganga Trust) Posted on Tue 20 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Dear Casudi,
I am hoping our website will be updated in the next one month. A couple of volunteers have come forward to help me. They have asked for some information to be provided by the service provider who has rented out the space for our site.
There is only one trustee in the US, who was born and brought up in Chennai. He gave us the initial seed money in 2002 to start the Rain Centre. Not any longer. The trustees do not play any major role in the day to day management of the organization.
We would have installed RWH systems in a few hundred plots (these will include independent houses, multi-storeyed residential/commercial complexes, colleges, churches, factories etc.) in the last fifteen years as a result of my guidance.
Please note that almost all of them would have been aquifer recharge systems and not collection (in plastic/masonry tanks) systems. What we do is to create recharge wells, whose diameter would be in the range 3 to 5 feet and depth ranging from 10 to 20 feet depending on the amount of rainwater likely to be harvested. They would be left empty and covered with a Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) lids. You can go to “downloads” in our website and look at the pdf document (primer I and II) for a drawing of the recharge well.
Sekhar

Please clarrify what the current status of Akash Gange Chennai is?

By Bank-On-Rain Posted on Mon 19 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Dear Sekhar,

I too am puzzled by the mission statement for Akash Ganga Trust. You state that your demonstration house acts as an information center and also will serve to receive charitable funds to implement systems in orphanages, etc. but offer no examples of such projects. Is the primary role of your organization as a "funding organization" providing resources to local plumbers/masons to install rainwater harvesting systems, or does it intend to act as an implementer receiving funding through PWX and similar groups? If the latter, please provide information on past project examples and other activities that may have transpired during the last 6 years and therefore are not represented on your website.

Your interest in joining PWX indicates you are aware of the goal of providing transparency of funded project -- budgets, successes/failures, number of persons served, lessons learned and follow-on project performance evaluations after completion are all part of the PWX process. The members of learn from one another, share ideas and offer advice to others, thereby improving the effectiveness of each project. This starts with the membership evaluation, which I have found to be of tremendous benefit to our organization, however in order to initiate a discussion regarding your organization, we need more information from you.

Thank you for your interest in joining the Peer Water Exchange.

Best regards, Mike

Please clarrify what the current status of Akash Gange Chennai is?

By The Rain Centre (Akash Ganga Trust) Posted on Tue 20 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Dear Mike,

The Rain Centre, which is our demonstration house acts as an information centre for all those who want to learn about RWH. We are also capable of implementing RWH systems in places with the help of our trained contractors (plumbers and masons). The implementation cost will have to come from the house owner who pays directly to the contractors.

Charitable Institutions need RWH to be implemented in their premises but do not have enough money to carry it out. We would like to intervene in such cases and help them implement RWH, the cost of which will have to come from PWX and similar groups. We play the role of a facilitator.

In RWH we have done such work in the following places.

1. In an old age home and a home for spastic children about 10 years back from funds donated by the “Citizens Run Trust”.
2. In a couple of churches about 5 years back from funds donated by a person living in Germany.
3. In a Cancer Hospital about 3 years back from funds donated by the Rotary Club.

In Ecological Sanitation we have done work in the following places.

1. Nine ecosan toilets were constructed in a coastal town called Kovalam in 2007-08 from funds donated by FAKT, Germany.
2. We were associated with another ecosan project in the same town where 12 more toilets were constructed from funds given by the Komazawa University students and 32 more were constructed from funds given by Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Regards,
Sekhar

Please clarrify what the current status of Akash Gange Chennai is?

By Bank-On-Rain Posted on Tue 20 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Dear Sekhar,

Thank you for the additional information. As part of the PWX process Bank On Rain have been asked along with other members to evaluate your organization for inclusion in the Peer Water Exchange. Any amplification of your mission statement, past project results, number of users benefiting from sanitation and/or water systems and similar information would be most helpful. Apparently Rajesh is familiar with your organization but unfortunately I am not. Can you provide descriptions or project reports for some of the work referenced above? Does the Centre instruct and supervise the local tradesmen when constructing RWH systems, or is the role to provide design information?

I am working on a project with the National Institute of Ocean Technology and so travel to Chennai several times per year. I will definitely visit the Rain Centre on my next trip and perhaps have an opportunity to meet with you then. In the interim, I look forward to learning more about the projects and programs conducted by the Rain Centre to assist with this evaluation.

Thanks, Mike

3 of 3: Value of design and the non-profit sector

By Peer Water Exchange Posted on Mon 19 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

The part i have the hardest time in this model is the provision of 'free' services by the Rain Center.

The 300 RWH systems designed by the rain center were done with no fees. Arghyam (and i hope they participate in this review) has supported your work, which is great.

However, the users have not put a value on your work and it seems that this type of work is expected to be done for free. This model does not help the many others (including Vishwanath and Rain Water Club) who are doing similar work.

I feel that just like how the Rain Center brought 15 contractors together, the folks who design RWH systems should come together to ensure that their knowledge, work, and wisdom is valued.

I am not trying to make profit centers out of these non-profits, but i see so often folks ask for a design, get a free drawing then they sit on it or go elsewhere. We need to ensure that such services are not taken lightly and they are valued.

Regards,
Rajesh

3 of 3: Value of design and the non-profit sector

By Bank-On-Rain Posted on Tue 20 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Rajesh,

You obviously have access to more than the meager information supplied in the profile and website for the rain center. Perhaps you or Sekhar Raghavan can share this information with other members of PWX?

Best regards, Mike

3 of 3: Value of design and the non-profit sector

By Peer Water Exchange Posted on Wed 21 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Hi Mike,

I like the connections coming out of this discussion. I have met Sekhar Raghavan twice over the past 2 years and was impressed by what i have heard in a few minutes of conversation. My questions based on the little i have learnt are listed above.

I would like to put up all 300 of their apartment RWH projects on PWX and share the learnings and also start a mindset where value is given to the knowledge and design principles practiced by Rain Centers and Banks on Rain!

It would be good to have a meeting in Chennai.

Regards,
Rajesh

3 of 3: Value of design and the non-profit sector

By Bank-On-Rain Posted on Wed 21 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Rajesh,

RWH for urban settings has not been discussed much, but may offer significant benefits. I'm eager to learn about the apartment installations.

Best regards,
Mike

3 of 3: Value of design and the non-profit sector

By Rainwater Club Posted on Tue 27 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Let me also put in my tuppence worth on this discussion having known Sekar Raghavan since about the time Akash Ganga was started or even slightly before. He has had many fellow riders but has outlasted them all :) and continues on his journey which now has branched also into eco-sanitation.
Akash Ganga Chennai was THE pioneer model in India on urban rainwater harvesting and has had a tremendous influence on the rest of the country on how rainwater harvesting can be done in urban India.
Sekhar has modest aims for the AG now and deserves full support for simply the past work that the Centre has been able to achieve and the work that they want to do now.
In Bangalore too we have taken the building bye-laws and worked upon them further. The rainwater park set up by the BWSSB also takes on the idea of the AGC and raises the bar further.
Urban rainwater harvesting will now only spread all across India and occupy an important niche as part of the overall water management and supply to cities. AGC being the pioneer needs and deserves support to continue its activity.

Re: 3 of 3: Value of design and the non-profit sector

By Peer Water Exchange Posted on Tue 10 Jan 2012, almost 11 years ago

Thanks for the support Vishwanath.

I am excited that AG will join and we can work and track urban projects.

Would like to work with all of you so that the value of design work and knowledge is accepted. By being able to create a revenue stream out of that work, then we can attract and retain practitioners to the field.

3 of 3: Value of design and the non-profit sector

By The Rain Centre (Akash Ganga Trust) Posted on Wed 28 Dec 2011, almost 11 years ago

Dear Rajesh,

The third set of answers.

In India, cooked food was never sold till about a hundred years back and definitely not knowledge. Even now we have the “langars” among the Sikh Community, where food is served free twice a day and it is “No questions asked”. Now we have started selling water and maybe air in future. We at the Rain Centre wanted to be different and hence decided to be traditional.

Secondly, if I had chosen to charge for my advice, the three hundred projects would have become thirty or even less. One of our slogans was “Catch Rain, It’s free”. When we get Rain free, how can I charge for advising people to collect it. Thanks to Arghyam and a few other donors, we were able to stick to our principle of not charging for our advice. In future I hope there will be more such donors to support our mission.

We have a few neighbourhood newspapers (weekly) which are distributed free!!!. They are in fact more popular than the National dailies in their respective neighbourhoods. One of them was instrumental in popularizing my door to door campaign on RWH way back in 1995 and many thanks to them. I think we should get over this idea (I will even call it obsession) of charging for everything.

Your idea to bring together the folks who design RWH systems is good idea but who is to bell the cat. I will be happy if Arghyam does it.

Sekhar


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