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Water: Time to take a long-term view

Water: Time to take a long-term view

While the reckless and unregulated digging of borewells over the last two decades is mainly to blame, the irregular supply of Cauvery water led to an increased dependence on borewells and consequently to the overexploitation of groundwater.

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Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 00:10 IST
Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 00:10 IST
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The long dry spell until last week in Bengaluru has resulted in the depletion of groundwater, causing more than half the borewells in the city to go dry. Though the city has started receiving showers in the past few days, it will take some more time for the water situation in the city to improve even temporarily.

While the reckless and unregulated digging of borewells over the last two decades is mainly to blame, the irregular supply of Cauvery water led to an increased dependence on borewells and consequently to the overexploitation of groundwater.

Even the borewells owned by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) have had to bear the brunt, further increasing the pressure on water supply.

The BWSSB generally draws about 400 million litres of water per day from its borewells to cater to areas that do not receive Cauvery water. BBMP has nearly 3,000 borewells to supply water to 110 villages that were added to Bengaluru municipal limits in 2008. Though the BWSSB attempted to regulate new borewells by mandating prior approval, those in the know say that at least five illegal borewells are being drilled every day.

Although Bengaluru has started receiving rains, it is important that the civic agencies do not get back to their complacent ways and instead take long-term measures to avoid a repeat of the situation this summer.

It is well understood that water bodies help increase the groundwater level and hence there is a need to rejuvenate them on a war-footing. For instance, in areas around Bellandur and Varthur, borewells which would yield water round the year have suddenly gone dry after the lakes were drained out for desilting.

In contrast, abundant water is available in borewells around Iblur lake which was recently rejuvenated. With Bengaluru being over-concretised, there is very little scope for rainwater to percolate into the ground. Against this background, the BBMP has undertaken the task of setting up hundreds of percolation wells across the city, especially in parks. This is a welcome move.

Considering that over 40 per cent of Bengaluru depends on groundwater and that the Supreme Court has placed a cap on the extent of Cauvery water that can be exploited, there is an urgent need to focus on conservation.

The BWSSB has recently announced three initiatives -- water conservation, utilisation of treated water, and rainwater recharge -- to address the water challenge in Bengaluru.

These, too, are welcome. But more needs to be done, and with a holistic vision for the city. It’s time for the government, civic agencies, and citizens to think about water availability in the future and together take some hard decisions on Bengaluru’s growth and development.

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