B’luru May Run Out of Drinking Water & the Crisis is Man-Made

The Cauvery verdict can help solve Bengaluru’s water woes, but only if residents & officials pull up their socks.

3 min read
Hindi Female

Cape Town will be the first modern city to run out of drinking water – but it isn't the only water-stressed place in the world. In fact, one in four cities is at some or the other stage of water scarcity, according to a 2014 survey of the world's 500 biggest cities.

In India, that fear of water shortage is the most acute in Bengaluru.

India's IT hub is placed only second after Brazil's financial capital, São Paulo, on a list of 11 other cities likely to run out of drinking water in the near future.
 The list, compiled by BBC News, ranks Beijing right after Bengaluru, followed by Cairo, Jakarta, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo and Miami.

The Cauvery verdict can help solve Bengaluru’s water woes, but only if residents & officials pull up their socks.
Bengaluru is placed only second after São Paulo on a list of 11 other cities likely to run out of drinking water in the near future.

(Photo: The Quint/Erum Gour)

What is most appalling is that Bengaluru’s impending water crisis is rather man-made.

Population Stress Leading to Water Stress

It is well-documented that Bengaluru, as India’s Silicon Valley, has urbanised at a rapid pace. The high influx of people from other cities has given rise to the development of new properties. This rapid, unplanned urbanisation has led to stressed water resources, and eventually its mismanagement.

The spurt in the population of Bengaluru over the years has led to congestion and encroachment. As the number of settlements increased, so did the number of bore-wells being constructed.
Divya Tiwari, CEO, Saahas, an NGO working towards waste management

“Many new apartments and commercial buildings have come up in the peripheries of the city like Peenya, Electronic City and Sarjapura. The civic bodies failed to manage the sources of water that were available in these areas. They focussed only on providing ad hoc solutions to water shortage. Had the government charted out a long-term plan, we would not have faced such a crisis,” said Shubha Ramachandra, a water sustainability consultant at Biome.

BBC News further points out that Bengaluru wastes over half of its drinking water.


The Poor Maintenance of Bengaluru’s Lakes

Bengaluru – home to a large number of once beautiful lakes – is now seeing them being contaminated with sewage and other industrial effluents.

Only 85 percent of the water in the city’s lakes is fit to be used for irrigation and industrial cooling.

On 19 January, residents in Bengaluru’s Yemlur region spotted the Bellandur lake going up in flames, and not for the first time. The fire happened due to formation of flammable methane gas caused by industrial pollution.

During the same time last year, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board data showed that 53.8 percent of their monitored lakes fell under Grade E and the remaining were put in Grade D – the lowest grades. The Water Quality Index showed that 98 percent were ‘unsatisfactory’. The six lakes under severe threat were Nagawara, Sankey, Lalbagh, Avalahalli, Chokkanahalli and Bhimmanakuppe.

After inaction from the government, many citizen groups sprung up across the city to clean the frothing lakes. One of them was led by Usha Rajagopalan, who is working towards reviving the Puttenahalli lake in Bengaluru’s JP Nagar.

There has been lack of regulation when it comes to the usage and maintenance of lakes. Laying of stringent buffer zones for properties and a constant monitoring system would have helped the cause. Since proactive measures were not taken by the civic bodies, we as citizens have come together to change the scenario.
Usha Rajagoplan

Absence of A Well-Integrated Sewage Management & Ground Water System

Several million litres of untreated sewage is let into the catchment areas of lakes every day. The Bellandur, Varthur and Ulsoor lakes in the city have already been victims of this.

The sewage lines in this city have not been planned and maintained well. The installation of sewage treatment plants was made mandatory only in apartments. What about individual houses? Local bodies like the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board has completely neglected this aspect.
Sharad Chandra Lele, Senior Fellow, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment

The heavy reliance on groundwater is another problem. The groundwater is not replenished at the same rate at which it is utilised.

“If too much money is withdrawn from a bank account, without bothering about deposits, one will have to pay the price,” Ramachandra said.


Report Gets Attention, But Will It be Acted Upon?

While the urgency of the report did not go unnoticed, the kind of action plan remains to be seen.

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