Till the wells run dry!

Areas on the outskirts of Bangalore are facing a serious shortage of water
Last Updated 21 March 2013, 19:04 IST

Considering the rate at which the City has been expanding and developing in the last decade, it’s surprising that the level of concern over its depleting water resources is so low.

This is especially the case on the fringes of the City, which are provided with piped
water from the Cauvery supply line.

The residents of these areas get by largely on two sources of water: independent borewells and tankers. This precarious situation of dependency has been continuing for a few years but now — with the groundwater reaching alarming levels — it seems that even at a high price, water might not be that easy to get hold of.

The crux of the problem is that the rate of development — and correspondingly, the residential population — of many of the City’s suburbs have increased drastically in the last few years.

A decade ago, the condition of the groundwater level wasn’t a pressing concern
because most areas received a steady supply from the BWSSB.

But as more gated colonies, apartment complexes and individual homes are springing up in areas like Doddanekkundi, Jakkur, portions of Whitefield and stretches of Sarjapur Road, this is no longer the case. Added to that the fact that Bangalore received unusually scanty rainfall last year, it isn’t surprising that the City’s
outskirts are facing water scarcity.

Shubha, a member of the Rainwater Club, says, “The monsoon failed last year, which is why the situation this year is critical. Earlier, people assumed that they could simply buy tanker water. Now, they’re slowly realising that even at high prices, water simply might not be available.” 

The realisation seems to be growing as several borewells that have been sunk on the outskirts of the City are running dry. K P Singh, the secretary of a gated colony called Rainbow Drive on Sarjapur Road, states, “Before 2005, we had 12 borewells that
supplied water — now, there’s only one that hasn’t run dry.” Ironically, the borewell which is still providing water is one of the shallowest in the colony, at less than 200 feet.

Singh explains that this is probably because there are several recharge wells immediately around it, through which rainwater is channelled back into the ground.
The others — some as deep as 1,200 feet — have all run dry.

The committee of the layout has already called in experts and begun to formulate a plan to counter the scarcity, including capturing rooftop rainwater and urging its residents to cut down on their water usage.

“Consumption patterns have to be changed. My family never exceeds a usage of 15 kilolitres a month, although in some households, as much as 50 kilolitres are consumed,” adds Singh.

Despite the scarcity, most builders don’t consider the issue of water scarcity before putting up large residential complexes on the outskirts. “They haven’t got the hang of handling the water issue yet,” says Shubha, frankly. “They’re not willing to ponder over how much water is available in an area before starting to build — they’re more concerned about the real-estate prices and fitting as many people into a space as possible.”

Theoretically speaking, rainwater harvesting should help counter the problem. But harvesting isn’t compulsory on the outskirts, as it is for areas connected to the Cauvery supply.

“The pre-existing water supply is the BWSSB’s stick when it comes to reinforcing rainwater harvesting and that doesn’t exist on the outskirts. However, there is awareness and willingness to harvest water among the residents here. The problem is that this might not be enough,” Shubha says, adding that infrequent rainfall hasn’t helped things.

Sushma, a resident of a gated colony in Doddanekkundi, agrees with this view.

“Those who live in the central area of the City aren’t as sensitive to the problem. But we’ve been facing it for more than a decade now. More and more people are taking to harvesting rainwater and the knowledge that this water should be channelled back into the ground — rather than stored in a sump — is also accepted,” she says. “These initiatives take time but hopefully, if the rains don’t disappoint this year, the situation will come under control,” she concludes.

(Published 21 March 2013, 12:20 IST)

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