The City only got thirstier

The City only got thirstier

The City only got thirstier

The share from the Cauvery has exhausted. Bangalore will have to look for other water sources and now, if it has to avoid a huge deficit .

Did we Bangaloreans heave a collective sigh of relief when the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) promised Cauvery water connection to the new BBMP areas by July-end?

Well, that moment of euphoria will have to wait, conditioned by a reality that the pipeline infrastructure is still in the works, the supply - if and when it eventually happens - will be restricted to one lakh people, and the additional water will fall short by a whopping 330 million litres per day (MLD).

Water experts caution that even after the BWSSB partially commissions the much-awaited Cauvery IV stage II phase, the crisis will persist. The Board is expected to add 500 MLD to the existing supply of 900 MLD from August, boosting the total water supply to the City to 1,500 MLD.

Although the newly added BBMP areas will benefit from this new project on priority, 110 villages added to the BBMP will not get a single drop because there is no infrastructure there yet. 

Under its Greater Bangalore Water Supply and Sanitation Project (GBWASP), the BWSSB had managed to lay water lines to just over 1,15,000 consumers.

Now, if all goes well with no broken pipelines, these one lakh-odd consumers will be the first to receive water from the new Cauvery water supply project. But this too would be a challenge since the drainage-laying work had disrupted the water lines at many places. The Board is struggling to get them repaired before the supply could begin.

Population estimates show that by 2021, the City will have 100 lakh people. That would mean a shortfall of 330 MLD of water. By 2038, this shortfall is projected to rise to nearly 1,030 MLD, with the population racing ahead to 125 lakh.

It is clear that Bangalore City will have to look beyond the Cauvery water supply as the IV stage II phase will be the last and final drawal from the Cauvery basin, according to the Cauvery Water Tribunal agreement. If the competent government agency does not formulate long-term plans now, water scarcity will drastically affect Bangalore’s development.  

Leakages, unequal distribution

The BWSSB supplies nearly 900 MLD of water to nearly 60 per cent of the City’s population, mainly to the core areas, including Bangalore South, West and parts of North and East. Some of the water and sanitary pipelines laid during the British era are still in use and this is one reason why nearly 40 per cent of the water supply goes down the drain due to leakages.

This is euphemistically called Unaccounted For Water (UFW). Although the BWSSB has taken up a pilot project to plug all the leaks in the Bangalore South division, there is an urgent need for more such projects, say experts.

Another issue is unequal distribution of water in the City. While some areas receive water for nearly 20 hours a day, other areas receive Cauvery water only once a week. It is also known that some upmarket areas that receive water for longer durations are guilty of wasting the precious Cauvery resource in either washing their cars or watering gardens.

“The BWSSB has not made any effort in educating the elite class about water wastage. Even today, when you take a stroll in Sadashivanagar or Jayamahal Extension, you see people washing cars using hose pipes. This, when half the population of Bangalore doesn’t have access to a decent amount of drinking water,” notes Nalini Srinivas, a resident of Electronics City.   

Heavy dependence on borewells

Once the BBMP expanded its periphery by including seven City Municipal Councils (CMCs), one Town Municipal Council (TMC) and 110 villages, a real estate boom ensued. IT companies, small industries and apartment complexes mushroomed in those areas.

That triggered a huge demand for residential properties as well, who wanted water in plenty. The only option was borewell water, which is partially administered by the BWSSB. Over the years, this borewell rush has led to unprecedented exploitation of groundwater. The indiscriminate sinking of borewells has resulted in depletion seen never before. Alarmingly, the acquifier below has also virtually dried up.

A report by geologists G V Hegde and K C Subhash Chandra on ‘Resource availability for water supply to Bangalore City’ shows the water drawal from 3,12,000 borewells is about 12,451 ha m (hectare metre), which is 3.78 times the recharge from rainfall.

The report points out that currently, only 37,374 ha m is being supplied from both surface and groundwater resources as against the annual demand of 48,600 ha m.  With a shortage of 11,226 ha m, nearly 22 lakh people will face water scarcity in the future.

Paying heavily for water

For residents of the new BBMP areas, the water crisis has deepened further with this year’s delayed monsoons. Areas such as Byatarayanapura, Dasarahalli, Peenya, Mahadevapura, KR Puram and Bommanahalli have been facing acute water crisis for many years and this year it has only gotten worse.

They have been paying quite a bit of money to private water tankers. Residents are left with no choice but to fork out whatever money is demanded. “Water is the most elusive commodity here and I spend close to Rs 3,000 a month buying both potable and non-potable water. The BWSSB laid water pipelines sometime back, but we have no idea when we will receive water,” says Bhagyalakshmi B Anjani, a resident of Akash Nagar in
B Narayanapura, KR Puram.

The BWSSB had laid water pipelines under the GBWASP project five years ago. The Board has now started laying the sanitary lines, too. A few months ago, while digging the ground to lay pipelines, BWSSB workers had accidentally damaged the water lines.

The lines are yet to be repaired in many spots. “There is huge water scarcity in my area; the borewell is also not yielding any supply lately. The BWSSB has been assuring us water supply this year, but with the broken pipelines, I am not sure when we will receive water,” wondered Syed Rafi, a resident of LB Shastri Nagar near HAL.

Long and short-term plans

The BWSSB had set up an expert committee to find long and short-term solutions to the water problem. The panel had recommended measures to curb leakages, adopt rainwater harvesting and to rejuvenate lakes to recharge groundwater.

The long-term plans included drawing more water from the Cauvery water basin, and diversion of west-flowing rivers such as Hemavathi and Nethravathi. Alternatively, Centre for Policies and Practices, an NGO, proposed removal of encroachment and maintenance of lakes, maintenance of stormwater drains and ‘raja kaluves’ with proper servicing tracks.

Optimum use of sewage treatment plants and tertiary treatment plants in the City was another way suggested to deal with the water crisis.

Rainwater harvesting

The BWSSB amended its Act to make rainwater harvesting (RWH) compulsory in the City. The Board even set deadlines to encourage residents to adopt RWH structures in their houses.

After repeated announcements and publicity, of the 55,000 houses identified for compulsory RWH structures, nearly 42,000 houses now have them in place. The Board even set up a rainwater harvesting theme park to educate citizens about different methods of the technique.

Many countries have adopted different methods of treating water to address shortage. There is a need for every Bangalorean to understand that there will be a more severe water crisis in the future. With equal participation from the government and the public, effective water conservation could be at least attempted.

V Balasubramanian, former additional chief secretary to the Government of Karnataka, has compared Bangalore City to the ‘happy turkey’ in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s ‘Black Swan’.

The turkey is getting fattened before Christmas without the faintest idea that its world will end on Christmas Eve. He says Bangaloreans should read history instead of economics, engineering and IT, as it shows that not just cities, but even kingdoms have disappeared due to water famines.

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