By A Staff Reporter Kathmandu, July 22: Catch rain. It’s free! This was the point raised in Wednesday’s webinar on rainwater harvesting in the urban areas organised by Smart WASH Solutions (SWS), a company, and the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC). Former Minister for Environment, Science and Technology Ganesh Shah opened the session and stressed the need for harvesting rainwater to solve water scarcity in the urban areas of Nepal. He believed that even letting a drop of rain go to waste was unacceptable and urged everyone to build rainwater harvesting systems in their homes and offices. Stating that it could help end water poverty, he urged all three levels of government to take policy-level initiatives to promote the practice. In addition to Shah, Dr. Sekhar Raghavan, director of the Rain Centre of Chennai, India; Anisha Karn, chief operating officer (COO) of Smart Paani Pvt. Ltd., Jayshree Rajbhandary, assistant expert at the City Planning Commission (CPC) of KMC and Sapana Regmi of the Youth Red Cross Circle of Tri-Chandra College spoke on the occasion. Dr. Raghavan shared the experience of the cities of India which face droughts in summer and floods in the monsoon. Rainwater harvesting can be a solution to both, he said, but it has not been understood by the citizens. “People view rainwater harvesting as an alternative to other sources of water like rivers and ponds, not understanding that rivers and ponds exist because of rain,” he said. He explained that rainwater harvesting could be easily done and would reap numerous benefits. Building on Dr. Raghavan’s point, COO Karn pointed out the irony of letting thousands of litres of free water falling from the sky go down the drain and then paying thousands of rupees to buy water from commercial sources. She also noted how expanding urbanisation was exacerbating water shortages in many parts of the country. Karn further highlighted the major challenges that Smart Paani has encountered in its quest to promote rainwater harvesting among the people. “A lack of public awareness, a lack of prioritisation by the government and no incentives to encourage people to harvest rainwater as the main challenges,” she mentioned, also adding limited manufacturing options, dominance of non-governmental organisation and taxation policies to the list. Rajbhandary talked about the work being carried out by the CPC through its ‘Recharge Kathmandu’ initiative in mapping Kathmandu’s water bodies, generating publicly available data, rehabilitating historic ponds and taps and digging groundwater recharge pits in public areas. Regmi urged the government to invest in the development and conservation of rainwater harvesting systems. Kishor Thapa, former secretary at the Ministry of Urban Development and chairperson of SAARC Association of Architects and Ramdeep Sah, chairman of SWS, also expressed their views at the webinar moderated by Hari Prasad Sharma, chief executive officer of Smart WASH.