The Rainwater Project: Reviving Telangana stepwells one at a time to help build urban water security

"These heritage stepwells horde an enormous amount of garbage which is also a health hazard for everyone who lives nearby. To revive the Bansilalpet stepwell in Secunderabad, we removed close to 2,000 tonnes of garbage. This is 1/3rd the total amount of garbage produced by Hyderabad city on a daily basis," said Kalpana Ramesh, the founder of The Rainwater Project.

By Amrutha Kosuru  Published on  23 April 2022 7:42 AM GMT
The Rainwater Project: Reviving Telangana stepwells one at a time to help build urban water security

Hyderabad: There are more than 600 heritage stepwells in Telangana. While several of them are still functional, most of them are filled with tonnes of garbage. The Hyderabad-based social enterprise, The Rainwater Project, has been on a mission to revive them. So far, they have revied around six heritage stepwells in Hyderabad.

"These heritage stepwells horde an enormous amount of garbage which is also a health hazard for everyone who lives nearby. To revive the Bansilalpet stepwell in Secunderabad, we removed close to 2,000 tonnes of garbage. This is 1/3rd the total amount of garbage produced by Hyderabad city on a daily basis," said Kalpana Ramesh, the founder of The Rainwater Project.




She added, "These stepwells are also a huge rainwater collecting point. They store lakhs of litres of water which also helps in avoiding urban flooding."

Kalpana said reviving old stepwells isn't an easy task. "Most of these stepwells don't have drawings or any pictorial record. So, it becomes difficult to retain the heritage. Most of the residents living in the area also do not know of the existence of these wells," she said.


The issue of keeping the stepwells sustainable is also a major task. "We create awareness among locals regarding the well's importance. However, we are planning to make it more sustainable by creating a small seating area with a coffee shop, etc. These heritage step-wells can be turned into mini-tourist spots," Kalpana explained.


Several years ago, when Kalpana came to Hyderabad, she was startled by the number of tankers people live on. With an aim to help people understand the importance of rainwater as a natural resource, she founded The Rainwater Project. Apart from reviving stepwells, they take up various projects where they provide expertise in the preservation of rainwater.

"We visit an area and assess the place with our team of geo-hydrologists and other experts. We also supervise, construct, and execute rainwater harvesting structures and wastewater treatment plants for all types of places – industries, malls, apartments, and more," Kalpana said.




Hyderabad is expected to be one of the cities that will run out of groundwater by 2050, as per Niti Aayog. However, The Rainwater Project believes that it is not too late "if we act now".

PM Modi's appreciation:

Earlier this year, during his usual 'Mann Ki Baat' address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated the restoration efforts undertaken at Bansilalpet stepwell in Secunderabad.

Highlighting the importance of water conservation and protection of water sources, Mr. Modi said, "I am happy that many people in the country have made water conservation a life mission. Many of the stepwells are centuries old and are part of our heritage. Bansilalpet Kaun in Secunderabad is one such stepwell. Due to years of neglect, this stepwell got filled with mud and garbage. But now the campaign to revive this stepwell has started with public participation."

Restoration of Bansilalpet, a 17th-century Nizam-era stepwell located in Secunderabad, was completed in January 2022. It is set to be inaugurated on 15 August. Rainwater Project, an organisation involved with several water management issues in the city, had undertaken the restoration efforts. The stepwell was earlier filled with decades of debris and garbage.

Restoration of Narayanpet Stepwell:

Away from Hyderabad, The Rainwater Project also revived the Baaram Baavi Stepwell in Narayanpet. The annual Bathukamma performancec were held in college halls but thanks to the restoration of the stepwell, local women performed around their own step well.

There are over 45 stepwells in Narayanpet. "We are aiming for a step-by-step restoration," says Hari Chandana. In the first phase, the project is working on five-six stepwells simultaneously.

The project, launched in partnership with the local administration and Hyderabad Design Forum, aims to document such lost stepwells and bring them to light so that the people and the authorities are aware of their existence.

Stepwells in Hyderabad:

The Rainwater Projected successfully restore six heritage stepwells in Hyderabad:

1. Kokapet Stepwell

2. Bansilalpet Stepwell

3. Gachibowli Stepwell

4. Kondapur Stepwell

5. Two Goshala Stepwells

The Rainwater Project is one of the many companies that will participate in [email protected] 3.0 (Innovations & New Knowledge in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), which will be held in Hyderabad in May 2022. [email protected] is a unique platform instituted by the Telangana Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MAUD) Department in partnership with the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) for collaboration between start-ups/innovators, mentors, academic institutions, non-profits, funders, and state/city governments.

(NewsMeter is the formal media partner for [email protected] 3.0. NewsMeter has written this article in association with the Administration Staff College of India.)

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