Not A Drop To Waste

How an integrated water management initiative is tackling the challenge of falling groundwater levels in Gurugram.

Planet Outlook
July 19, 2021
Not A Drop To Waste

Drone image showing the Mozabad pond site with WWTP and landscaped area

 

The exponential growth of Gurgaon or Gurugram, the ‘Millennium City’ is nothing short of a fairy tale. From a nondescriptive village in the 70s to a bustling metropolis, the transformation has been remarkable. However, the glitz and glamour have come at a price. The rapid decline of its freshwater resources for everyday use is a constant threat to this urban growth story.

 

Gurugram depends heavily on groundwater for its daily water needs. Gurugram has a groundwater extraction rate 308 per cent higher than the recharge rate. To simplify, Gurugram is using groundwater 308 per cent faster than nature to replenish. With the water table falling at such a pace, the ‘millennium city’ is expected to be left high and dry by 2030. Realizing the gravity of the situation, the district administration of Gurugram along with Hero Moto Corp CSR formulated Gurujal - an integrated water management initiative. In addition to the challenge of falling groundwater levels, Gurujal deduced that 320 water bodies could be restored and rejuvenated by treating wastewater for daily use.

 

Under its ‘Support a Pond’ initiative, Gurujal has restored six ponds and is working with various government departments and corporates on 66 more ponds. The initiative has the potential to recharge 2,085 million liters of water, a lifeline for 40,620 people annually.

 

Mozabad Wastewater Plant

Located 40 KM from Gurugram, the Mozabad pond in Baba Syed Park, Block Pataudi, had become a wastewater dumping area for the village of 1300 plus residents. This resulted in contamination and the formation of a silt base at the bottom of the pond, which further led to a reduced percolation rate for groundwater table recharge. Gurujal's challenge was to enhance the percolation of groundwater and deal with the incoming wastewater at the pond. Additionally, the team also focused on landscaping the 0.5 acres of free land area available and building a community space.

Over five months, to improve the percolation of water the entire water body was first dewatered of polluted water, desilted to remove the layers of polluted silt, with the simultaneous construction of a decentralised 100 KLD root bed system that was placed at the inlet to the pond. So that before the water reached the pond again, the wastewater would be treated through the decentralized treatment system.

The root bed system is located in a strategic position that allowed the water to flow through the treatment system with gravity, and therefore no auxiliary equipment such as pumps was required for the system to be operated. The treated wastewater is now being released into the pond and is reused for irrigation purposes by nearby farmlands. Currently, studies are being carried out by the GuruJal Team on the water consumption patterns and changes in those patterns with the introduction of treated wastewater as a source of water in the community, especially in regard to water demand for irrigation. An automatic water level recorder (AWLR), based on a sensor system to measure the groundwater levels, has recorded an increased over 6 ft. or 2.5 meters of ground water level in the dry season (February to June).

 

According to experts, the pond will recharge 15,300 kilo liters of fresh water per year, which is sufficient for 320 people apart from many other ecosystem co-benefits.

Along with water recharge, a decentralized wastewater system such as Mozabad pond also helps in maintaining the microclimates. Some of the known benefits of microclimates created by ponds include their impact on evaporative cooling and decreasing temperature of surrounding urban space. Taking the holistic approach to decentralised treatment and overall community development, the adjacent area near the pond that had previously been acting as the dumping ground for all the solid waste, was removed, and the area was landscaped with plantation of native species, and with the addition of elements such as Nakshatra Gardens, erecting a kid zone area, and various seating’s scattered across the area, to encourage the community to accept and understand the importance of their water body in the local community. Now, regular Jagratas take place near the pond site, and has now completely been transformed with the power of community.

 

Similar successes stories have been dotted around the district, with human lives being impacted and ecological restoration taking place through decentralised wastewater treatment. While it is hard to put a number on all the intangible benefits of treated wastewater as a resource, the estimated ground water conservation potential through the restoration and rejuvenation of these 72 ponds is approximately 1983 ML within a year, that would be able to serve a population of approximately 40,200 people in a year.