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Bangalore Without Cauvery – The Impending Water Crisis

When Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) decided to temporarily stop giving new water connections, it was shocker for many; however, as typical as we are, we did not seek the reasons and solutions. The reason given was – scarcity of enough water especially from Thippagondanahalli reservoir on the Arkavathy - a clear indication of a deep crisis that is not very far from today and this is not an isolated incident. While talking about the Cauvery Water Supply Scheme (CWSS) earlier this year, BWSSB Chairman Gaurav Gupta had warned the citizens saying “This is the maximum that we can get from the Cauvery river. Henceforth, we will have to look at waste water recycling, replenishing ground water resources and other water conservation methods like rain water harvesting." Yes, it is high time that we sit back and think how far we are going to milk the Cauvery. A close retrospection into the steep depletion of Cauvery water flow sounds an alarm of caution to the city dwellers, but it often goes unheard and unnoticed. Even if the BWSSB partially commissions the the Cauvery Water Supply Scheme by July end, the crisis is expected to persist; however, it would be a moment of relief as the board will be able to provide a total supply of 1,500 million liters per day to the city with the launch of Cauvery IV stage II phase. Yet, nearly 100 villages added to the BBMP will not benefit from this project as there is no adequate infrastructure in place to stretch the scheme to these areas. The BWSSB at its best could lay water lines to only around 1,15,000 consumers under the Greater Bangalore Water Supply and Sanitation Project (GBWASP) initiative.
Its estimated that by 2021, the city's population will hit the 100 lakh mark which otherwise means a shortage of 330 MLD of water. The shortfall of water will shoot up to nearly 1,030 MLD by 2038 as Bangalore's population will be around 125 lakh then. According to a study by the Energy and Wetland research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, 262 wetlands that existed in Bangalore in 1962 had declined by a whopping 58 percent by 2007. Between 1973-2007, Bangalore's built up area went up by 466 percent and the number of lakes in Greater Bangalore decreased to 93 from 159 during the same time period. However, BBMP claims there are 212 lakes in the city of which 42 were lost due to development work. The lakes on which the city was depending for water were neglected since 1970s when the Cauvery water supply scheme began. It's found that nearly 40 percent of 900 MLD of water supply is wasted due to leakages owing mainly to the age old pipelines, some of them belonging to the British era. The unequal distribution of water is another major worry as some part of the city gets nearly 20 hours of water supply a day while other areas gets once a week. The overdependence of borewell water resulted in an unprecedented exploitation of ground water and depletion of ground water like never before. According to a report titled 'Resource availability for water supply to Bangalore City' prepared by geologists G V Hegde and K C Subhash Chandra, the water drawal from 3,12,000 borewells is about 12,451 hectare metre that is 3.78 times the recharge from rainfall and the water level has plunged below 400 feet. According to the Cauvery Water Tribunal agreement, the Cauvery water supply IV stage II phase will be the last drawal from the Cauvery basin and we need to start looking beyond Cauvery at the earliest.


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