Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Bangalore facing shortage of drinking water

Reviving of lakes, water bodies and rainwater harvesting will ease water problem in City

Several residential areas in Bangalore, particularly located on the outskirts, are facing severe water problem in this summer season. The reason is shrinkage in the availability of water at KRS dam in Mysore and erratic monsoon.

Increase in the number of residential layouts and commercial activities and industry contributed to the hike in demand for Cauvery water in Bangalore. More than 50 urban centres in the old Mysore region are depending on the Cauvery water.

There was the time when Bangalore was free of tall multi-storied apartments, and people lived in independent houses, large or small. Bangalore was free of air-conditioned malls and multiplexes, but shopping and entertainment options were still plentiful. Bangalore was free of its Information Technology tag, but was still a reasonably significant industrial manufacturing hub. With its tree-lined roads, large open spaces and now abundant Cauvery water, Bangalore was really the Pensioner's Paradise, where retired folks could live without any worries.

This was also the time when we watered plants and washed our cycles with buckets and mugs of water and not hoses; we bathed with buckets and mugs of water and not showers or in bath tubs. Still, we enjoyed having ponds of fish and frogs in our gardens without the extravagance of fountains and waterfalls. Many houses had wells that were brimming with water even in the summers. Yet there had been an imminent lurking water problem, giving way for Cauvery water.

Cauvery Water in Bangalore was the first big step taken by the State Government to meet the growing water needs of the city, something that was anticipated several years earlier, after many of the lakes that were sources of drinking water, had been developed to accommodate infrastructure projects.

According to a research paper from the Dept of Geology Bangalore University, there were 3000 lakes in 1930. And in 1950 it reduced to 484 lakes. Now only 184 lakes remain, said N.S. Mukunda, Citizens Action Forum (CAF) in a paper published in the Website.

In 1958, an Expert Committee had been formed to investigate the problems and suggest measures that would meet the long-term water needs of the city. At that time, the Expert Committee considered four possible options: development of the Arkavathi River downstream of TG Halli reservoir, Hemavathy River, Shimsha River and Cauvery River. They recommended going with the Cauvery. At an estimated cost of Rs 22 crores, the Cauvery Stage I Project commenced in 1969 and took about five years to complete. On 24th January 1974, Bangalore received its first taste of the Cauvery water.

Subsequently, with the ever growing needs of the city, Cauvery Stages II, III and now IV have been implemented by various state governments but there seems to be no end in sight. The cities boundaries have been stretched on all sides, and with it, the water problem has reached the stage of a crisis.

Bringing Cauvery water to Bangalore over 100 km is expensive. According to Kemaramayya, BWSSB Engineer, Cauvery water is pumped to Bangalore in three stages of 500 feet each, with associated costs of pumping 900 MLD for a month (as of 2012) being Rs 300 crore. Cauvery water does not reach much of the city, and for those who do receive it, rationing to a couple of days in a week is now a way of life. Wells and borewells are going dry and dependence on water brought in tankers from far-away places is quite prevalent.

Towards a permanent solution to Bangalore's water problems an expert committee was established in 2012 headed by Tyagarajan. Several proposals have been placed before the committee for consideration, including a comprehensive solution by Citizens Action Forum (CAF), that will help in augmenting the city's water

CAFs Proposal:

Revive Arkavathi River and Hesarghatta Lake - The old source from Arkavathi-Hesarghatta which was supplying 165 MLD has to be revived. This revival can be achieved in 5 years and results will start from the third year onwards.

Revive, rejuvenate and interconnect all the existing 184 lakes - Conservation of the 184 lakes and the interconnection of these lakes are issues of urgent attention. The rejuvenated lakes will improve the ground water level in Bangalore and the borewells in the range of 80 to 180 feet that have gone dry will spring to life. This measure will ensure a supply of 500 MLD per day to the city.

City wide rain water harvesting - Rain water harvesting is now mandated for 40x60 sites and all new residential constructions. Considering the 56000 40x60 sites, at 750 mm of rain, with 100% collection will give 9072 MLD annually. Daily requirement is 1450 MLD. So it meets the requirement for just 6.25 days or 1.71% of annual requirement. So RWH should be done in all public (government buildings and 1400 parks in Bangalore.

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