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Is Bengaluru prepared for a water crisis?

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-04-2017 Sharan Poovanna

Bengaluru: An acute drinking water shortage in Bengaluru, caused by drought and deficient rain, will translate into taps drying up by mid-June, Karnataka’s water ministry warned earlier this month.

Even recent predictions of a normal monsoon year in India in 2017 and short spells of rain in Bengaluru in the past week have failed to bring cheer to the capital of a state facing its second straight drought year.

“Bengaluru has always faced a shortage of water as it has witnessed rapid and unplanned growth,” said Kemparamaiah, engineer-in-chief of Bengaluru water supply and sewerage board (BWSSB).

Bengaluru has over 300,000 household borewells and around 9,000 public ones sunk by BWSSB which have depleted ground water tables to unprecedented lows and dried up lakes.

So steep is the demand that Bengaluru authorities have had to switch from the now almost-dry Thippagondanahalli reservoir to the Cauvery river to draw water.

The Karnataka government issued an advisory last August asking farmers not to sow water intensive crops just to ensure enough supply of drinking water.

Successive governments in the state have also diverted much of the water from surrounding regions to Bengaluru only for it to be misused.

Bengaluru gets about 1,400 million litres per day (mld) of water but as much as 300-400mld is lost in leakages, according to Kemparamaiah.

M.B. Patil, Karnataka water resources minister, said that the water ministry will continue to supply around 600 cusecs (1,440mld) of Cauvery water to Bengaluru but that his ministry cannot be held responsible for how the water is distributed to citizens.

“We are trying to make rain water harvesting compulsory and are even offering property tax rebates to those installing these systems,” G.Padmavathi, mayor of Bengaluru said. But the scheme suffers from lack of enforcement. In addition, the current capacity of sewage treatment plants in Bengaluru is only about 720mld, which means water from toilets, car washes etc cannot be treated.

She said that the BBMP has budgeted for re-energizing of borewells but the civic body has not taken steps for curbing misuse by the powerful water tanker lobby.

Sriram Kuchimanchi, chief executive and founder of sustainable consultancy firm Smarter Dharma, attributed the city’s water scarcity to rapid inflow of people, lack of sewage treatment plants and virtually no rain water harvesting.

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