Published: 16th March 2020
Water warriors: This Kovai water expert tells us one simple trick to save thousands of litres of water
Dr R Ilangovan, who has worked with the Tamil Nadu Public Works Department enlightens us with his knowledge of easy water conservation from households to industries
When we were on a hunt for water experts in Coimbatore city, most of them pointed their hands at one person, and that was Dr R Ilangovan, a former Special Chief Engineer in the Water Resources Department of Tamil Nadu's Public Works Department. With almost 35 years worth of experience dealing with water and its management across Tamil Nadu, it is evident that the elixir of life is more of a friend than a work prop for him.
The moment we asked him about water, he asked us a counter-question: Where do you get your water from? Before we could answer, pat comes the reply: Rain. "Rain is the primary source of water. The rainwater flows as rivers, streams, lakes, and finally, drains into the sea. Almost two or three decades ago, we used to fetch water in pitchers from these streams, lakes or rivers and use it for drinking and everything was fine, until the advent of technology. But once we started using these technologies to get water in our taps, the fate of rivers was decided," says the 61-year-old adding, "Now, all our water bodies have become waste disposal sites. Be it solid waste, plastics or industrial effluents, anything which is of no use to us is disposed off into the nearest water body."
Water pollution is not alien to us, and he sites the Noyyal river in Coimbatore and Couum river in Chennai as a visible example. We asked him whose fault it is, to which he smiles and says, "Everyone's!" After a brief pause, he continues, "There are three main sources of water pollutants. One is the disposal of household effluents, second is the discharge of industrial effluents, and the major unnoticed pollutant is the chemicals used in agriculture which later mixes up with groundwater or washes into the river post rainfall," says Ilangovan, who is presently the Vice-Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Water Resources Development Cell, PWD, WRD, Chennai.
We guiltily ask if there is any solution in sight. Without disheartening us, he says, "There are solutions to overcome the pollution. But before getting to that, how many of us take back the water given to us while visiting a family function?" We shrugged guiltily. "Then that is the point we should start from. Once you open that bottle and have a sip, it is disposed off. Several litres of water are lost every day due to this practice. No matter whether you buy the water or not, respect it, because there is no life without water," explains the water enthusiast.
And on the home front? He responds amiably, "Every household can reuse greywater (water from baths, sinks that are relatively clean). In industries, the effluents can be treated thoroughly before disposal and farmers can practice organic farming and avoid usage of pesticides, weedicides, and so on."