Sewage, encroachment choke water sources

Unkal Lake in Hubballi covered by a carpet of water hyacinth. DH PHOTO/TAJUDDIN AZAD

When the twin-cities Hubballi and Dharwad were upgraded to municipal corporations in 1962, there existed 101 water bodies connected with 152 canals supplying water for both domestic use and agriculture purposes. But today, it has only 19 major water bodies and water in any of these sources is not potable.

Such is the situation in the twin cities that now people are demanding the government to draw water from rivers like the Mahadayi and the Kali. Experts believe that such proposals are not only ecologically detrimental but financially not feasible as well.

Water crisis: Towns, cities stare at Day Zero

Water: coast in the red
 

Experts and research studies put the blame of water scarcity in twin cities directly on the mismanagement of water bodies, unplanned development, rampant pollution and encroachment of water bodies.

Unfit for consumption

According to a report submitted in 2018 by a committee led by Rithu Kakkar, director general of Environmental Management and Policy Research Institute, 54 water bodies of the total 101 continue to ‘somehow’ survive, while remaining 47 water bodies have made way for ‘development works’.

The report adds that water in only eight of the 54 water bodies in the twin cities is relatively less polluted while water in 24 tanks in Hubballi is not fit for consumption. Unscientific growth of the city meant that large water bodies such as Neerasagar, Unkal Kere, Tolankere, Navalur Kere, Kelageri, Rayanal and others, which could have stored huge quantities of water have either gone dry or have become unfit for domestic use as sewage from the towns is pumped to them.

It was Sir M Visvesvaraya who designed Unkal Lake and Kelageri Lake for drinking water purpose. However, both of them are not serving the cause now. Water supply from Unkal Lake was stopped 25 years ago owing to deteriorated water quality. Tolankere is also facing a similar problem as sewage water is drained into this water source.

Water supply from Neerasagar, which was built in 1969 to supply drinking water to parts of Old Hubballi and Gokul Road, was stopped in September 2016. With its one TMCft of storage capacity, Neerasagar could have met the water needs of its command area for 18 months.

However, it was declared as an unreliable water source in 2017, due to low water storage. The lake has lost its catchment area due to rampant construction work.

To compensate the 40 million litres of water per day (MLD) of deficient water of Neerasagar, the Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation is spending
Rs 26 crore to draw additional water from the already stressed Navilatirtha Dam constructed across the Malaprabha at Savadatti in Belagavi district.

Mismanagement

More than water shortage, it is the mismanagement of water supply that is making twin cities a parched land. While the conjoint cities require 215 MLD, they are currently getting only 155 MLD of water.

The unplanned water network is resulting in a few areas getting drinking water once in three days while others once in 12 to 15 days. Under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation scheme of the Central government, efforts are being made to provide drinking water 24X7.

However, technical reasons have resulted in the work being stalled after one-third of Dharwad and one-fifth of Hubballi were given 24X7 water connection. Officials believe that the water requirement will reduce if this scheme is fully implemented.

The Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation is also making very little efforts to encourage rainwater harvesting.

While a rule says clearance certificate should not be given to houses (constructed on plots above 30X40 feet dimension), which do not have rainwater harvesting facilities, poor implementation has made it ineffective.

“If we save every drop of rain, even during the below average rainfall year, we will be able to store more quantity of water than required for a year,” said Santosh Nargund, a social activist who is encouraging people to take up rainwater harvesting in the twin cities.

In a normal rainfall year, the twin cities receive more than 700 mm of rainfall. However, for the last seven years, they have received below average rainfall with a minimum of 530 mm and a maximum of 640 mm.

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