Linganamakki: drop the plan

Water is released from the Linganamakki dam in Shivamogga Distrist. DH Photo/S K Dinesh

The Karnataka government’s decision to commission a detailed project report to draw water from Linganamakki dam across the Sharavathi river in Shivamogga district, 400 km away, to meet the drinking water needs of Bengaluru should be dropped immediately as it is economically, socially and ecologically unfeasible. Given Bengaluru’s burgeoning population and poor water management, 80% of the water supplied to the city is pumped from river Cauvery, which flows 100 km away, while the remaining is sourced from Arkavathy. The per capita water standard for a city of Bengaluru’s size is 150 to 200 litres per day, though at present the supply varies from 40 to 125 litres, depending on the locality, forcing people to rely on borewells and private suppliers. An expert committee headed by B N Thyagaraj had recommended in 2014 that Bengaluru’s water resources be augmented by lifting 30 tmcft of water from Linganamakki. The city’s population is projected to grow to 2.3 crore by 2031, and with a cap imposed by the water disputes tribunal on the exploitation of Cauvery for Bengaluru’s needs, the government sees the Linganamakki proposal as the only viable option.

Besides the astronomical cost involved — Rs 12,000 crore for the first phase to draw 10 tmcft — the project is fraught with several other consequences. Environmentalists point out that large tracts of forests would be destroyed, causing serious damage to the ecology. They argue that due to the poor rainfall in the Sharavathi valley, storage in the dam has not reached even half its total capacity of 151 tmcft in the past three years. Livelihood in the tail-end areas is also likely to be hit with depletion in fish population, increase in salinity and overall fall in agricultural yield.

It is high time Bengaluru looked at its own resources to meet its water demands and reduced its dependence on the rest of the state. Steps should be taken without delay to rejuvenate over 600 lakes in and around the city, while rainwater harvesting should be strictly implemented to regenerate the ground water level. Recycling of water is virtually non-existent, due to which a large quantity of potable water is used for non-consumptive purposes like gardening and washing cars. The Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewage Board also needs to improve its efficiency levels as at present the ‘unaccounted for water’ or leakage stands at about 38%. The fragile Western Ghats are already over exploited and their further destruction should not be allowed to meet the unquenchable thirst of an unplanned and unconcerned city. Bengaluru should learn to fend for itself.

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