Bursting at the seams, B'luru can't take more: experts

Metro out of control

Environmentalists tied Bengaluru's water crisis to its rising population.

A metropolis out of control. An insatiable monster. A city of excesses... Bengaluru continues to expand its not-so-envious list of adjectives, thanks to its expanding population.

On Sunday, it was the turn of environmentalists and activists to seek an immediate check on the population of the city so as to address its grave shortage of water.

Speaking at an event, a panel of 14 ecologists, activists and environmentalists tied the city’s water crisis and the dwindling state resources to the rising population of Bengaluru, which they described as a metropolis out of control.

Against the backdrop of the water crisis in Chennai, they suggested that the construction in the city be capped and resources committed to rural areas to halt the flight of farmers to cities.

Speaking to DH after the event, several panelists admitted that the idea was radical but said there was no other choice.

“The city is in danger of being crushed by its own excess,” said ecologist Jahnavi Pai, while retired Major-General Dr S G Vombatkere described Bengaluru as an insatiable monster in the sense that all its inputs — including food, water and commodities — came from outside while all of its waste went out in return.

Bhargavi Rao, an independent environmental researcher and consultant, said the city’s sprawling infrastructural projects were creating an artificial demand.

“Not every city can be built into a New York,” she said and called on the government to cap all infrastructural projects, including housing, to reduce the amount of natural resources being consumed for construction.

“The only housing projects that should be allowed should be for the poor, because there is a real demand,” she said.

Part of this reasoning came about, several panelists said, after a realisation that even green infrastructural projects force people to urban areas.

“At Pavagada, drought-ridden farmers were coerced into leasing their land for a solar farm, which prohibited them from carrying out agriculture. Worse, their labour was not used in building the solar array, which instead went to out-of-state workers. Many ended up migrating to cities for work,” Rao said.

K N Somashekar, an environmental activist, said the city’s failure to supply water to its citizens showed its unsustainability. “In 2003, Bengaluru, with 100 lakh population, got 19 TMCs of water annually, primarily from the Cauvery river. As per the 2017-18 census, the city’s population was 1.28 crore. Even now, the BWSSB has to make do with 18-19 TMC,” he said.

Environmentalists were also scathing about the government’s plan to bring 10 to 30 TMC water from the Sharavathi River, describing it as a “stop-gap measure” that can only save the city until 2030.

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