But we must go back a little, to discover how this political will emerged. Dr Sekhar Raghavan, a professor of physics was one of the first to realise the imperative of saving rain water for Chennai. Chennai has over 1200mm of rain fall per year but routinely lacks even drinking water, whereas a rain starved Rajasthan survives reasonably. What Chennai needed to do was to save the water that fell as rain. Its Ganga was in the skies. the city could link to it with RWH—right now. Raghavan was one of the first to preach RWH. He installed a RWH system in his house and began to organise his neighbourhood.
In far USA, Raghavan's activism made the Chennai-born Ram Krishnan recall how his mother would wake up at 3 am to collect water from a capricious tap. Ram and Raghavan connected and formed the Akash Ganga Trust. The idea was to raise awareness about the effectiveness of RWH as a solution to community water needs. They went on to build the Rain Centre in Chennai where the simplicity of the RWH idea was show-cased. Ram raised Rs. 400,000 and the Centre for Science and Environment [CSE] chipped in with support and inputs. It's a small residence converted into a resource centre. On Aug 21, 2002, Chief Minister Ms. J Jayalaithaa visited this modest building to inaugurate it. That was how it came about that RWH gained everyone's mind-share.
The proof is in the well:
Within a year of that date, a majority of buildings all over Tamil Nadu—and Chennai in particular— had RWH systems in place. Alas that year, rainfall was deficient. But even then results were dramatic enough to amaze and delight everyone. Water levels in wells across Chennai rose. Brackish water tended to get sweeter. There was less flooding in the roads. A lot of the money earlier spent on tanker loads of water, stayed in wallets.
Chennai was on a roll. Today, almost everyone across age and class is a believer. People brag about their wells like they once did about their children. Clubs, schools, hostels, hotels began to rig themselves.