Sustainable water for Bangalore
The beauty of rainwater harvesting is that every individual can get involved in the solution rather than be part of the problem
SAVE OR PERISH: Think twice before wasting water
Beginning today PropertyPlus on Saturdays will bring in a weekly column on various aspects related to water, especially highlighting some approaches where the drops from the rainy days could be skilfully preserved for a rainy day. Get set t
o organise and bring in all the suggestions in the ‘Water Wise’ column to enjoy the benefits of good saving.
“Realise the potential of harvesting nature’s bounty and hold back your extravagant habits,” warns our columnist S. Vishwanath of Bangalore’s Rainwater Club who vociferously advocates the importance of credit-and-deb
it wisdom from water accounts of nature. Vishwanath, a civil engineer and urban planner, heads a vibrant web-based advocacy group ( www.rainwaterclub.org) to propagate good practices of water management and sanitation and conducts awareness activities throughout the year.
Aapo rakshati rakshitaha — water saves those who protect water. This is a modification of an old Sanskrit saying ‘Dharmo rakshati rakshitahao’ and perhaps just as relevant for our times.
Bangalore is a city located on a plateau 900 metres above sea level. This provides it with the salubrious climate which is the envy of the rest of India. With no perennial river flowing within it, the city now has to come to terms with protecting its
water resource and ensure sustainability.
The city receives water mainly from the Cauvery (it provides more than 70 per cent of the city’s requirement) and to a small extent from Hesaraghatta and Thippagondanahalli reservoirs on the Arkavathy. Water is drawn from the Netkal balancing reservoir and treated at Torekadinahalli and pumped to the city, a distance of 95 kilometres. The elevation and the distance to which water has to be pumped makes it necessary to use three stages of pumping.
Huge energy cost
The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has to pay nearly 60 per cent of its revenue to BESCOM since the energy cost of pumping is huge. Nearly 800 million litres of water is pumped every day into the city with the completion of the Cauvery IV Stage-Phase 1 scheme. With the next phase, the volume will increase by another 500 million litres of water per day. The cost of production of water is about Rs.18 a kilolitre at present and will rise to Rs.28 a kilolitre in the future.
All this means that we have to look at our water resources holistically and draw up an integrated plan for sustainable management of this precious natural resource. Water in the city is at present fragmented physically and institutionally.
Lakes and tanks are mainly with the Lake Development Authority, groundwater is with nobody as a responsibility and with everybody to draw from indiscriminately, water in the pipes is the responsibility of the BWSSB, storm water is the responsibility of the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, and sewage, when it flows in pipes, is with the BWSSB.
Proper management will need to begin by coordinating the efforts of all these bodies involved in one way or the other with water. We have a Comprehensive Development Plan for our city, which is essentially a Land Use Plan. We quickly need a comprehensive Water Use Plan.
The newly constituted Lake Development Authority should become the Water Management Authority for our city and should coordinate the efforts of all bodies concerned with water in our city.
Surface water bodies
We will need to preserve our lakes and tanks and ensure that treated water of high quality is stored in them. These lakes and tanks are like the kidneys of Bangalore, according to environmentalist Yellappa Reddy.
Lakes and tanks clean water and are the ecological storehouses of bio-diversity. They recharge ground water and ensure that wells and borewells function.
The Lake Development Authority will have to gear up and draw up a strategic plan which is quickly implemented to protect all the water bodies in at least the 1249 square kilometres of planning area of Bangalore. Resources will need to be identified for investment, if necessary, from the State budget or through aid agencies. Transparency and accountability would need to be ensured for all funds spent.
Ground water needs to be protected by legislation and it’s drawal for commercial purpose regulated. Recharge mechanisms should be identified to ensure both quantity and quality water in the nearly one lakh and above borewells of Bangalore.
As a beginning it should be mandatory to recharge every borewell through rooftop rainwater harvesting when the borewells come up for serving domestic water requirements. If it is our right to draw water, it should be our responsibility to use it in moderation and to recharge the groundwater.
Water treatment and recycling will be essential to serve industrial and domestic needs. In neighbourhoods the local tank or lake which is the natural recipient of all rainwater and surface water should serve as an effluent treatment centre.
Wastewater should be treated to such high standards that it is possible to keep it in the closest lake itself. The water cycle will be completed at the neighbourhood level and decentralised water management would be possible.
Rainwater harvesting is now mandatory and is better if implemented early. Rainwater falling on the city is nearly 3000 million litres per day, equivalent in an average year of rain. Compare this to the water being pumped from the Cauvery and other sources, which will ultimately be 1500 million litres per day and one realises the quantum available for harvesting.
The beauty of rainwater harvesting is that every individual can get involved in the solution mode rather than be part of the problem. A 100 square metre roof area receives nearly a lakh of litres of rain in a year and all that we do now is to put it into the drain. By either storing it or by recharging the aquifer we should not only create a resource for ourselves but also mitigate urban flooding.
The BWSSB is doing a Herculean job in supplying water to the city.
Its efforts need to be supplemented and coordinated in a holistic fashion. The water requirement for a city are not merely for human consumption but have a far wider role which is ecological, recreational, micro climate influencer, spiritual, cultural and much more.
Bangalore was a city of tanks and the agrarian community, which first occupied it, depended on the tanks for livelihood. The ‘karaga’ festival, unique to Bangalore, is a festival around water. Water has been the cradle of civilisation, and civilisations, the graveyard for water. Bangalore has to come to terms with its mismanagement of water and take steps to manage it better. We owe it to ourselves, but more importantly to our future generations.
From next week we shall go deeper into the water scenario and diagnose the ills and suggest remedies to enable better storage.
(The author can be contacted at 23641690 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
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