Bangaloreans don’t need to look to Cauvery for augmenting water supply, the solution to the Bangalore’s water problem remains in treating sewage water.
A report by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says that around 60% of sewage water in Bengaluru remains untreated. It states that the city has 14 Sewage Treatment Plants with a capacity to treat 721 Million Litres per Day(MLD) but only 302 MLD gets treated.
This report titled ‘Excreta Matters’ was released by Sunita Narain- CSE director-general in Bengaluru on June 28th. The report analysed water-sewage situation in 71-cities across India, including Bengaluru.
Sunita suggests that the authorities should spend more on sewage treatment. She adds, “Recycle and Reuse should be the motto of the city. That is where the future lies.”
The city is also planning to set up seven additional STPs but the management of its sewage is still a question.
Nitya Jacob, programme director-water policy on advocacy, CSE says that like most of the cities Bangalore too is affected with the outdated sewage infrastructure. He says, “It demands repair and refurbishment even as more needs to be built. It is not able to trap its waste and convey it to the treatment plants.”
On top of the untreated the sewage issue, 40 percent of the city’s water supplied is lost due to leakage. The report says that BWSSB calculates the demand for the water to be 1125 million litres per day and claims to supply 900 MLD. But the distribution losses amounts to 460 MLD. The leakage, if saved, can serve an additional 4.35 million people.
This may be attributed to the ageing infrastructure of Bangalore. The water distribution network is around 70-100 years old, resulting in corrosion and rusting of pipes impacting heavily on water availability.
Gaurav Gupta, Chairman BWSSB admits to the leakage problem and added that infrastructural growth like road widening mostly on the pipelines also causes the damage. He added, “little money is available to replace the assets and we are dependent on external finances. It sometimes comes in spurt or it doesn’t.”
Cauvery water is expensive
The report stated that the city is forced to depend on Cauvery river on the demise of water bodies. ‘Phase I of the Cauvery Water Supply Scheme (CWSS) provides about 810 MLD on an average; the water is pumped and transported over a distance of 100 km. The power required to pump this water is enormous and is crippling BWSSB’ says the report.
Gaurav Gupta agrees with the report and says, “The power used to pump Cauvery River water (to the city) costs Rs 300 crore per year.”
The chairman found the report an ‘eye-opener’ and committed to not allow sewage flow into the lakes. He reasoned that the right pricing (water charges) would be a key to solve the water problem in Bangalore. He also said that more thrust should be given on water harvesting.
Sunita Narain concluded, “if water is sourced from a long distance this problem will stay, and there will never be sufficient funds for sewage treatment and disposal. Water has to be augmented using local sources – RWH, lakes and Groundwater.”⊕
The key is decentralization. Capture, harvest, use, treat, reuse and conserve in the smallest zones possible. Starting from home, block, area, ward, etc., In that order. We really would not have needed to depend on the Cauvery as much as we do.
We do exactly the opposite. Wipe out all lakes and water bodies. Pollute the few we have left. Set up large infrastructure to carry water and waste water at huge expense and treat in massive plants that are expensive to set up, maintain and run without a clue how to reuse effectively.
Well, which is the obvious sustainable way forward into the future? Who will take the right decisions? When? I think not. Not even if we reach well beyond the tipping point and water costs go up to Rs. 100 a litre. There will be the vested political interests and the water mafia (who would have grown to larger than the drug mafia by then) who will want to keep it this way.
(water prices are based on my own experience of paying Rs. 50 per kl in 2007 to current prices at Rs. 200 per kl.- privately bought as many of us do in Bangalore)
I am a water treatment consultant for the past decade.