Roof gardens and rainwater harvesting will go a long way in making us less reliant on external energy sources, says Anupama Mohanram

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Roof gardens and rainwater harvesting will go a long way in making us less reliant on external energy sources, says Anupama Mohanram

This pandemic has changed most of our lives in one way or another. We’ve been forced to stay indoors, cut down our visits to stores and even reduce our reliance on the availability of fresh food and water from external sources. In a way, COVID-19 has highlighted the problems with globalisation and has put the limelight on the importance of being self-sufficient.

One of the key aspects of being self-sufficient is to grow our own food. Doing so will not only guarantee food security, but also ensure the food we consume is free of pesticides and harmful chemicals. Although more plausible in independent homes with large vacant areas, food gardens are also being set up in balconies and rooftops of apartments. In fact, roof gardens also provide us with the added benefit of cooling our indoor spaces below, reducing our energy requirements and making it easier to be energy-efficient with a lower capital expenditure.

Current technology has also made possible vertical gardening and the use of hydroponics — growing plants without soil — which has proven to yield more and occupy less space. Drip and automated irrigation systems controlled by sensors and timers can also be brought in to save water. Community food gardens could also be thought about as they would incorporate a larger area and provide food for the entire neighbourhood.

Another aspect of self sufficiency is to ensure water security. We need to adequately harvest and capture rainwater, treat waste water and reuse the same. These two tasks along with the use of efficient water fixtures will make us water-secure and reduce our reliance on the natural resource from external sources. Rainwater from rooftops, once filtered, can be directly channelled into a sump for domestic use.

Black water (water from toilet flushes) and grey water (water from kitchens, wash basins, washing machines) should be treated separately and reused appropriately. The resulting treated water can be used for flushing and gardening. While channelling grey water, it will be imperative to ensure the use of filters to remove grease, oil and other solid contaminants. Use of natural and organic cleaners and soaps will avoid harsh chemicals and microbeads in the treated water. Periodic monitoring and testing of treated water will be required.

Appropriately treated and monitored grey water can even be used to irrigate our food gardens thus leading to a cycle of self-sufficiency at least in terms of food and water, ensuring we are better prepared for the next crisis.

The author is the founder of Green Evolution, a sustainable architecture firm