Bengaluru faces another water crisis this summer. It’s not just citizens who are responsible for this situation. For decades, the state government and civic administration have been focusing on short term strategies, without assessing whether these are sustainable.
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The main cause of the current crisis is that we have no clue where our resources come from, what their limits are, and we don’t value what we have. The city has destroyed its water security – the 1800 lakes that our forefathers built here, are down to less than 200 now. And even these remaining lakes don’t have potable water. If those 1800 lakes had been preserved, even today Bengaluru would have had enough local water resources for its population.
Instead, governments over the years have followed the misguided policy of moving the water source out of our sight – first by depending on Hesaraghatta reservoir, then Thippegondanahalli reservoir, and eventually Cauvery river. Thus we were disconnected from our water source, an understanding of the source and its value.
The biggest disaster was allowing borewells! Now we have residents who dig borewells randomly to deep aquifers and use unhealthy water, even as they destroy the remaining lakes. Not realising that deep aquifers are almost a non-renewable resource, we have been exploiting it carelessly, and now water is available only at alarming depths of 1500 feet. This means we have almost no water left.
The worrying bit is that 60 percent of Bengaluru’s population of 1.2 crore depend on borewells now! And now that the borewells are drying, what happens to them? We are right in the middle of a humanitarian crisis unfolding.
We require a water security strategy, and soon:
- The city probably should constitute a Water Board that has supreme powers over its water resources, and regulate and mange these resources. This board should consist of non-political experts on both water and sustainability.
- The policy in Bengaluru should be to localise water use and processing. Every ward should be held responsible for generating, renewing, maintaining and providing water for its residents. Only water generated at the ward level should be subsidised. Water from distant sources, such as from other wards or from Cauvery river, should be priced at actual cost, removing all subsidies. Water from these sources should in fact be taxed, to discourage its use. This policy will incentivise wards to revive their lost lakes, and make lake water potable again. It will also make people come face-to-face again with their water source, and hence respect and value it. It will also make them connect with nature and conserve it.
- All existing water assets – lakes, streams, rivers, shallow wells and borewells – should be inventorised and monitored transparently.
- Borewell drilling must be banned throughout the country. Existing borewells should be shut down, and only community borewells should be allowed to operate.
- If the use of borewell water is allowed, it should be heavily taxed. Water from beyond the ward boundary should also be taxed heavily, more so if it is routed from rivers. Shallow wells should be tax-free.
- Along with lakes, shallow wells should be revived on a war footing.
- A million recharge wells should be dug all over the city, so that shallow aquifers can be recharged by rainwater, and used over the year.
An integrated plan should be put together and implemented as an emergency. This is the only way forward for both water security and building a sustainable city. Else, we can all start making plans to migrate away from Bengaluru!
Disclaimer: This article is a citizen contribution. The views expressed here are those of the individual writer(s) and do not reflect the position of Citizen Matters.