A Plan B for water to a thirsty city – Bangalore

May 2, 2013

The news on the monsoon front for Bangalore has been disappointing. After the least rainy month for 117 years which was June, July too has seen hardly any downpour in the first 10 days. The clouds are picking up and it is also true that the rainiest months are ahead being August, September and October. The Kabini reservoir which is one of the first to fill up and overflow is almost at rock bottom. It is from here that water flows and joins the Cauvery before it is pumped into the city to reach our taps. It is said that the prayer for rains in the Thanjavur area of the Cauvery delta, the rice bowl of South India, is for it to rain in Mercara so that the Cauvery will flow and reach their fields. Similarly Bangaloreans must pray for rain in Wynad as much as they pray for rain in their own city.

Apart from prayers there should be a Plan B for a low monsoon. What is that? As of now it is not clear that the city has a Plan A let alone a Plan B to distribute water to reach all its citizens. However here is what a Plan B could look like.

Make rainwater harvesting mandatory for all buildings in the city. The lesser the rain that falls on the city, the more precious the water that will be harvested and put to productive use. Every building should become a contributor to the water requirement of the city rather than only placing a demand on it.

Take up de-silting and improvement of all the tanks in the city on a war footing. Here is an opportunity masquerading as a crisis. When citizens have realized the scarcity of water it is for the government to wake up and make plans which are implementable in the short run and which focus on storing water and increasing the groundwater table to recharge the aquifer as and when it rains.

Make it mandatory for all parks and medians to use treated waste-water only. Stop the wasteful use of fresh groundwater in the 1000 or more parks in the city and use the bore-well water to supply it for domestic requirements. There is plenty of treated waste-water in the city which is not being used and the opportunity presents itself to put this to good use for construction activities also such as the metro and the large apartments being built in the city.

Quickly implement the groundwater bill and make sure that groundwater is treated and used as a community property resource rather than as a private good. Take over the large yielding bore-wells and make them part of the city distribution. Every bore-well must be mandated to have a recharge structure and as much of rainwater as possible to be recharged into the ground.

Storm-water drains must be made sewage free and those that are made sewage free should then have recharge structures in them to ensure that storm-water too is put to productive use.

Apartments and layouts – They play an important part in demand management and reducing demand by 20 % should be easy. Metering of each flat should be taken up quickly as is putting the waste-water treatment plants to good use. Treated waste-water must become the first charge for non-potable use and layouts must be mandated to put them into place and start using them immediately.

Watering of lawns and washing of vehicles should be banned and a social mobilization created against such waste quickly.

Individual homes:  My friend from the neighbourhood and 14 years old Aravind suggests that school- children should be involved in water conservation efforts by their parents. One bucket of water for a bath is enough he says. By not getting clothes dirty much water can be saved in washing them and he also suggests that boys should clean their own plates and cups with as less water as possible in homes and schools.

The fragility of our water systems, their dependence on rain  and the linkages of tanks and lakes and groundwater is clear to us. A crisis they is also spelled as opportunity in Chinese Mandarin. Will we make use of the opportunity? Will we put in place a Plan B ?


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