Archive for June, 2012


Looking back and looking forward

June 14, 2012

The water and sanitation issue Bangalore – a year end wrap

(6 months down the line nothing has happened )

As the year comes to an end a look at the water and sanitation situation in Bangalore and the challenges ahead is due. The census figures for 2011 came out and showed a whopping increase of almost 3 million people the decade 2001 to 2011. The requirement to provide water and sanitation to 9 million people poses by far the largest challenge to the water utility which has a limited fresh water source from the Cauvery River.

The big project to bring 500 million litres of water additionally to the city rolled on with the Minister monitoring it himself. It is likely that in 2012 the city will see this 500 million litres per day providing some succor to a water short populace.

On the rainwater harvesting front the city acted tough on the deadline of 31 Dec 2011 at least till the last 3 days. It set up the country’s first rainwater and water theme park in Jayanagar and opened it up to the public for advice as well as to see how the city struggles to bring water. The first step in water literacy and water awareness began.

As regards groundwater the city has been charging a small amount of Rs 50 a month arguing that the water used from these bore-wells ends up in the sewage system and therefore has to be collected and treated. This is the first city in India to do that as a result of which it has an inventory of the number of bore-wells operating to supplement the piped water. A Groundwater Bill has been passed by the state legislature and the rules and regulations are being drafted. 2012 will provide an opportunity to incorporate the sustainable management of groundwater as a long term solution for the water requirement. A good groundwater management and regulation system beckons but much work will need to be done and the right knowledge base created and utilized.

Surface water bodies the innumerable ‘tanks’ of Bangalore survived a mixed year. A lot of noise was made to take up and upgrade a 100 of them. Some work was done but 2012 will be the make or break year for the tanks. Much effort will be needed to demarcate and prevent the encroachment of the tanks. Pollution from point and non-point source will need to be tackled and things will need to be done sustainably rather than on an ad-hoc basis as the Ulsoor tank cleanup efforts have shown. Things can deteriorate quickly unless a management plan is in place and investments are made regularly.

The city also started to look at its role in a river basin in 2011. Investments are being made in reviving the river Arkavathy once the main source for the city now dry. 2012 will show how actually the city plans to revive the river and whether  it can regain it as a source.

Wastewater collection and treatment was a rather poor show though underground sewage lines are being laid in the periphery of the city and some decentralized wastewater treatment plants sprang up. This will be a real tough challenge for the city because the resource recovery from polluters is very poor. Will the city be able to collect the right price and will the polluter pays principle be made to work will be the challenge for 2012. Layouts and apartments are now being mandated to recycle wastewater, use dual pipes and to become zero discharge units. This will need to be effectively managed in 2012.

Water and sewage pricing in 2011 was an outright disaster. With electricity bills on the rise and no increase in the water tariff since 2005 the utility is being financially strangulated. The proposal for a hike has now come from many sources and the bullet will need to be bitten in 2012 and both water and sewage prices rationalized to ensure universal access but also disciplined behavior in consumption.

The city utility is moving from being a water supplier and sewage collector to more of a manager of resource. Through rainwater harvesting, wastewater recycling , groundwater management, water literacy and water pricing it is trying to involve the citizens and consumers of water as part of the solution. Much more will be needed to be done in 2012. The city utility and others would be well advised to come out with a yearly report card and also the next years plan for water management . Perhaps a promise for 2012 ?  


Recharge wells at the Rainwater harvesting theme park at Bangalore

June 14, 2012

Sir.M.Visvesvaraya Rain water Harvesting Theme park is constructed on 1.1 Acre land and situated at 8th main, 40th cross,               5th Block, Jayanagar Bangalore.


Water Level Monitored In Artificial Recharge Wells

Artificial Recharge wells have been constructed at different locations in the park.

1)   South East Corner 

    Well diameter and depth – 4’ x 20’





Water level monitored from 14-05-2011 to 15-03-2012.

Water level has started from 1.25 m on 14-05-11. In Rainy season it has been progressively increased and reached maximum level at 3.3m on                     21-09-11. After Rainy season stops in artificial recharge well water was getting percolation and the water level step by step decreased and reached the water level at 1.05m on 18-01-12. After that till 15-03-2012 gradually percolated now water level is Nil  in recharge well.

     2)  North West Corner

           Well diameter and depth – 3’ x 20’





Water level monitored from 14-05-2011 to 15-03-2012.

Water level has started from 0.2m on 14-05-11. In Rainy season it has been progressively increased and reached maximum level at 2.35m on 24-08-11. After Rainy season, the water level step by step decreased and reached at 1.05m water level on 05-12-11. After that till 15-03-2012 gradually percolated now water level is Nil in recharge well.

      3) North East Corner:

           Well diameter and depth – 4’ x 20





Water level monitored from 14-05-2011 to 15-03-2012.

Water level has started from 0.96m on 14-05-11. In Rainy season it has been progressively increased and reached maximum level at 3.12m on 10-10-11. After Rainy season, the water level step by step decreased and reached at 1.085m water level on 29-12-11. After that till 15-03-2012 gradually percolated now water level is Nil in recharge well.


Groundwater Management Plans

June 13, 2012

Groundwater management plans – the need of the hour


Visiting a lovely cricket ground, actually 3 grounds next to each other, on the periphery of the city was an eye opener. Games were on and the white flannels on the green, lush grass was idyllic. This was a state of the art place. Pop up sprinklers would water every inch of the ground. The young lads playing could dive around for catches and fielding without hurting themselves. This of course came with a price and that was water.

As does 65 % of India all water requirements come from bore-wells. One of them had just given up its ghost. The other was now challenged to supply the 600,000 litres of water needed daily to keep the grass green. Again like in many parts of India this is unsustainable. Only about 8 to 10 % of the rain that falls in semi-arid India reaches the underground aquifers on an average. When we draw more than this we are actually tapping in to fossil water, groundwater accumulated over years. The cricket grounds are unlikely to stay green without sucking up the groundwater in an entire zone.

Another phone call came from an apartment. The lady was trying for solutions to a water problem they faced. The bore-wells in the densely built area that she was staying were all drying up. The city utility supply was a trickle and insufficient for the demand. Rainwater harvesting provided but little water since the roof area per person in a multi-storied building is very less. Could she use treated grey-water for recharge was the question? The answer was a no. One simple cannot pollute the groundwater with treated waste water and in India this is not permitted by law anyway.  What then to do except to depend on tanker water which was unavailable and if available was expensive? Again the answer is nothing.

The city is undergoing repairs for its main pipeline and there will be no water or limited water for 3 days. This throws a lot of citizens into a panic. What is to be done? Water is to be stored and used sparingly. Bore-wells become the only source and private water tankers make hay while the sun shines.

Another example comes from a residential school for the blind on the outskirts of the city. Run heroically and completely based on charity and groundwater. The bore-wells the only source of water for the children goes dry. What is to be done when there is no water in the ground till 1000 feet?  

Groundwater Management Plan:  In all cases we need a groundwater management plan. Especially the city and its periphery needs an institution to plan, implement and manage the groundwater so that it is available when needed.

Users of groundwater have to understand its limits before the drill and start extracting water in large quantities. We are all entitled to the water limited to what is annually recharged.

Aquifers have to be mapped, understood and plans drawn so that all users from that aquifer behave in a responsible manner with a full understanding of the availability of the precious resource. Reckless over-exploiters need to be controlled and good behavior has to be rewarded.

 For that we need institutions that have the requisite skill set, finances, responsibility and accountability.

We cannot have cricket grounds which guzzle groundwater unsustainably, we cannot have dense apartment blocks with no possibility of water supply and we cannot have Global Investors meet in which cities are allowed to grow economically and population wise without answers to how they will get water in a sustainable fashion.

It is about time we started developing groundwater management plans for our cities and villages. It is time we invested heavily and wisely in the lifeline water for India which is below our feet. Otherwise if a monsoon plays truant we will be in a very, very vulnerable situation.