30 May - 5 June 2014 #709

Sajha goes green

Collect the rain, wash buses, raise the water table
Sunir Pandey

RAIN, RAIN, COME AGAIN: A Sajha Yatayat bus gets its daily wash.
While the rest of Kathmandu was parched in the past month, the city’s public cooperative transportation company Sajha Yatayat was washing its green buses with water. Passersby would have reason to be outraged. Yet, Sajha was awash in water because it had just installed a rain water harvesting system in its Pulchok terminal.

“Ever since we fit the pipes to the roof, we have enough water to wash all our 16 buses. Now we want to install filters and purifiers so that we can drink this stuff,” says Sajha’s CEO Padam Lal Maharjan. The company used to require 12,000 litres of water daily, which it bought from private tankers.

The revived Sajha wanted to harvest rain on the extensive roof of its garage and parking lot, but it was cash-strapped and government-funding was out of the question. It took the corporate social responsibility initiative of Coca Cola Nepal and award-winning social entrepreneurs at Smart Paani to arrange the financial and technical sides of the project. The office of Nepal Telecom next door also benefits from this initiative.

Kathmandu Valley receives more than 1,000 mm of rainfall per year and Smart Paani estimates Sajha’s roof and parking lot can collect at least 9,000 kilo litres annually.

Existing underground tanks at Sajha can store up to 2,400 kilo litres, and the rest will be sent back down through recharge pits, helping raise the falling groundwater level in Pulchok. Many wells and traditional water spouts that have gone dry in Patan could start flowing again.

CEO Padam Lall Maharjan shows how rain gets collected from their building’s roof.
Smart Paani has installed rain harvesting systems in 200 households, schools and companies in Nepal. Managing Director Suman Shakya successfully pitched the Sajha collect and recharge idea to Coca Cola Nepal.

The Melamchi project is supposed to bring 170 million litres of snow melt daily to the Valley through a 27km tunnel. The same amount can be collected from rainwater if the city harvested its rain.

The lack of open space and greenery in increasingly built-up Kathmandu means rainfall doesn’t percolate back into the ground but runs off into rivers, leading to falling water tables. Recharging ground water, therefore, is a public service.

According to the Centre for Integrated Urban Development, a house with a rooftop surface area of 100 sq m can collect up to 130,000 litres of rainwater per year. But most private houses in urban Kathmandu are not designed for rain collection and recharge. Public institutions, schools, and businesses with a large compound could lead the way.

Within a 1 km radius from Sajha Yatayat’s Pulchok terminal, lie the Institute of Engineering, UN House, St Xavier’s School, St Mary’s School, the National Human Rights Commission and the Zoo, which all have large roof-surfaces and paved compounds, and could collect and recharge rain if they followed Sajha’s example.

Read also:

Private water for the public, Nirendra Basnet

No water? No power? No problem, Bhrikuti Rai

Raindrops keep falling on our roofs, Ramyata Limbu

Collecting rain

Investing in rain, Bhrikuti Rai