Integrate Rainwater Harvesting into Climate Resilience Planning: Delhi HC

Taking note of the “unprecedented recent weather” and heavy rainfall flooding parts of the city, the Delhi High Court Friday called upon the authorities to explore innovative strategies for water conservation and to integrate rainwater harvesting into “climate resilience planning”.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma observed that the challenge was to harness the potential of rainwater harvesting systems as well as aligning sewer, drainage, and water storage systems to maximize the efficiency of rainwater utilisation, regardless of excessive or intermittent nature of the precipitation.

The court said the recent deluge here highlights the need to proactively anticipate and prepare for extreme weather events which are becoming increasingly commonplace due to climate change.

Integration of rainwater harvesting into urban planning is a “sustainable response” to the challenges of modern urbanisation as well as a pragmatic response to water scarcity, it said.

The court’s order came on a 2014 PIL by RK Kapoor on the issues concerning adoption of measures for water conservation in Delhi, specifically rainwater harvesting initiatives.

“The discussion on this subject would be incomplete, without acknowledging the unprecedented recent weather events of 2023 in Delhi. This year, the northern regions of India encountered heavy and sporadic rainfall that led to flooding across several states, including certain parts of Delhi.

“The deluge that inundated Delhi, magnifies the relevance of proactively anticipating and preparing for extreme weather events, which are becoming increasingly commonplace due to climate change,” said the bench, also comprising Justice Sanjeev Narula.

It said rainwater harvesting should be seamlessly integrated into the city’s climate resilience planning.

“To achieve this, the authorities must continually explore innovative strategies, adapt to evolving conditions, and proactively confront emerging challenges,” stated the court.

The court asked the authorities to periodically review empirical data on implementation of rainwater harvesting measures to ascertain whether efforts are producing tangible results and take corrective measures.

Emphasising the urgency of water conservation, the court said rainwater harvesting as a “viable solution” cannot be overstated as the need for water escalates in tandem with burgeoning populations and expanding infrastructure in cities.

“By harnessing rainwater which would otherwise go under utilized or contribute to flooding, cities can augment their water supply, alleviate stress on conventional sources, and mitigate the environmental repercussions of urban expansion,” it said.

The court said educating the public about the advantages of rainwater harvesting, coupled with practical implementation guidance, can catalyse a cultural shift towards sustainable water practices.

“While substantial progress has undoubtedly been made, the evolving landscape of Delhi, where urbanization and climate change intersect, amplifies the urgency of water conservation. The unwavering commitment of concerned authorities, to this cause, is thus imperative,” it said.

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It its order, the court also appreciated the combined efforts of Delhi Jal Board and the Delhi government in installation of rainwater harvesting systems across both private and public structures, along with reinvigoration of water bodies.

The court also acknowledged the measures taken by Central Ground Water Board and CPWD, and said, “This comprehensive framework, establishing the implementation of rainwater harvesting systems as a standard practice throughout Delhi, underscores the keenness of the State and Central Government to mandate implementation of rainwater harvesting systems, wherever feasible.

“The inclusion of rainwater harvesting mandates within building byelaws further underscores the commitment to water conservation. DJB’s introduction of water tariff rebates as incentives for rainwater harvesting and waste water recycling systems serves as demonstration of their commitment to the cause. Importantly, the civic agencies and municipal corporations responsible for approving building plans have taken on the role of ensuring adherence to these mandatory provisions,” it added.

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