The Rain Man and The Rain Centre

Akash Ganga Trust, India

Shreya Mehta on June 1, 2018 in Environment

Dr. Sekar Raghavan is fondly called ‘Rain Man’ by the residents of Chennai. Very recently, he has been conferred ‘Champions of Chennai’ award for his sustained efforts to promote Rainwater Harvesting.

One fine morning in the year 1995 while rinsing his mouth, he found the water very salty which he remembered, had to have been sweet earlier. Upon enquiry he realized that the ground water table in his residential area had reduced drastically. He instantly apprehended problem at hand and realized that something had to be done about it!

For almost three years he attempted to contact residents to create awareness about the situation but no one gave heed to his voice. By this time, he had quit his job and devoted all his time to the issue at hand, i.e. to find a solution to the problem. While conducting research he soon realized that Chennai was a coastal area and had sandy soil. Any amount of water put into the soil would percolated deep into the land. He wanted to use this quality of the soil to his advantage.

Then it clicked! Since Chennai is always blessed with so much rain, why not collect it and help it percolate into the soil. This solution would not only prevent the wastage of rain water but it could help increase the ground water level too!

From the days of his childhood he never believed in wasting anything. Whether it be clothes, food, pencils or any other resource for that matter. Little did he know that later in life this is going to be the driving force for his Campaign. Thus, he decided to save Chennai by encouraging Rainwater Harvesting.

Nevertheless, he faced a lot of challenges as people were reluctant to follow his advice. To his surprise, one fine day he received a call from some residents in Chennai who had settled in the U.S. They were willing to help him in any way possible. Thus, with their help and the seed money provided by them, the Akash Ganga Trust was established in 2002. ‘Akash Ganga’ here meant the water received from the skies, i.e. Rain Water. Since creating awareness on a day-to-day basis was getting difficult, they decided to rent a house and call it the “Rain Centre”. It was to become the central hub for information dissemination and also a model house of rainwater harvesting.

In 2002, the Rain Centre received a lot of encouragement and popularity as the then Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa brought out a law stating that all houses in Chennai would have to harvest rain water compulsorily, whether old or new. With time, the popularity of the Rain Centre increased and more and more people visited the Rain Centre for advice on Rainwater harvesting.  Within three years of establishment of the Rain Centre, Chennai had seen a rise of about 6-8 meters of ground water and this was indeed a moment of joy for Dr. Sekar Raghavan and Chennai as well.

The Akash Ganga Trust with the help of its Rain Centre has reached out to several people in the state and different parts of the country. Representatives from different nations visit the Rain Centre to gain inspiration and information on Rainwater harvesting.

During our interaction with Dr. Sekar, I was informed about the three goals of the Rain Centre. First, is to cater to all the needs of the people, i.e. information about Rainwater harvesting-what is Rainwater harvesting, how is it implemented, what structures need to be built and what maintenance does it require. All the walls of the Rain Centre are adorned with various instructive posters, pamphlets, primers and brochures that help inform the people about the same.

The second goal of the Rain Centre is implementation. Those people who want to get Rainwater harvesting done at their premises, just need to leave their address and contact number with the Rain Centre and free consultation and advice is provided to them by Dr. Sekar personally. Then if they wish to go ahead with the plan, plumbers and masons who are trained by the Rain Centre are also provided on demand.

The third and final goal is conducting researches and surveys. The Akash Ganga Trust employs resource persons for the task aimed at gaining an insight of the impact of Rainwater harvesting in the city. In 2015 when the trust received grants for research, it was decided to direct all the research towards mapping the entire city’s ground water potential. 88 wells in total have been constructed across the city at various locations to keep an eye on the ground water level and its quality (by checking its TDS level).

The information received from the same is shared with the government. Another task that the Rain Centre research engages in, is to find the level of the shallow surface water at various locations in the city, as this can be used by the government to deliver collected rain water to percolate and increase ground water levels.

Since about a year, a lot of the private companies have been contacting the Rain Centre and Dr. Sekar for conducting CSR work on water resources, primarily to develop Rainwater harvesting facilities in deserving Institutions like the Rama Krishna Math, the Cancer Hospital, some government schools and colleges.

In his message to people trying to establish NGOs to protect the environment or who are in the phase of developing their NGOs, Dr. Sekar asks all to keep in mind and focus on only one issue at a time and live for it. He believes, “It is important to sensitize the people about the environment, the problems we are faced with and accurate solutions to the same. No doubt initially one may face a lot of difficulties, but with sustained efforts anything is possible”.

Through Seminars, Workshops, Door-to Door campaigns, the Akash Ganga Trust through the Rain Centre has become a testimonial of this movement. Dr. Sekar suggests that if we want to take the movement forward then we need to build more Rain Centers at various locations across the country.

To read more about the inspirational work they are doing, visit Akash Ganga Trust today!

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