The recent trend of flowering trees blooming simultaneously has experts worried, though not panicked. Yet, this unnatural phenomenon is just one of the many warning signs that should be heeded. With its severe water shortage, rampant building activity, axing of beautiful, healthy trees and pollution of water bodies, Bangalore could be facing a disastrous situation. If this is not reversed, it could have severe repercussions.
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Whitefield is one example of how irrational and unscientific construction activity has severely affected the area. The sudden spurt in building activity began about 10 years ago despite no improvement or change in the water supply or a proper sewage system. The locality has no water. Almost every home buys water from private borewells. And, supply of Cauvery water to this area seems to be just a pipe dream. Yet building activities continue unabated.
A drive down the Borewell road or any of the smaller bylanes in Whitefield leads to the construction sites of huge apartment complexes. These residential and commercial complexes are being constructed on narrow roads which cannot take any additional traffic, in areas where the water supply is limited or non-existent. They drill more private borewells and very often, let out sewage into stormwater drains. How are these buildings being sanctioned without a plan for proper water supply? For how long will their borewells continue to supply water to residents?
Water and sewage issues
Whitefield has always depended on borewell water supply. Borewells are available on private properties, farms etc. My water supplier has his own borewell and supplies water himself. I do not know if this is legal. Even though the population has increased tremendously, especially over the past 10-12 years, the water supply situation remains the same. Many of the borewells have dried and pumps are out of commission. As a result, almost every household is forced to buy tanker loads of water from private borewells. Some buy a full tanker costing Rs. 350, every 10-15 days.
Also, Whitefield is still in the "soak pit era" as it has no sewage lines. Old Whitefield houses were built on large plots with enough space for a soak pit. Today, plots are much smaller. Yet large buildings are constructed on these small plots, leaving little or no space for a soak pit. Some owners even resort to placing soak pits in the middle of public roads from where raw sewage runs out, polluting the entire stretch and BBMP health officials, conveniently, turn a blind eye. Sewage is also let out into storm water drains, from where it flows into Varthur Lake and other water bodies, causing severe pollution. How much of this sewage percolates into the ground water, one wonders.
The Whitefield Settlers’ and Residents Association (WFSRA) was established in 1905, to oversee the governance of Whitefield. This was before there was a Village Panchayat, which then became the City Municipal Council and now the BBMP. The WFSRA is still active, though with the tremendous increase in the population and the number of apartment complexes and gated communities, each having their own RWA, the WFSRA is not as effective as it once was. Fortunately, several civic-minded residents and RWA’s including WFSRA have now come together under the umbrella of ‘Whitefield Rising’ to try to find a solution to the problems facing the neighbourhood.
I am the President of the WFSRA, at present. We have had several meetings with our local MLA, attended by officials from BBMP, BWSSP, BESCOM etc. But the problems persist. And lower income families who live in areas like Gandhipuram, Vijayanagar, etc. struggle more than the middle class population here.
Rainwater harvesting is now mandatory and one of the requisites for getting a Cauvery water connection. Although not all home owners have implemented this, mainly due to the high cost to individual home owners and due to the very little rain received in the past 2-3 years. Rain water harvesting has been more successfully implemented in apartment complexes and gated communities.
Experts might have not yet panicked about the unnatural changes to our environment. But I certainly panic at the thought of what will happen to Whitefield in a few years!⊕