Saturday, 6 April 2013

Sacrificing power for water

Bangalore has always been a city plagued by water shortage. Though the city generally receives abundant rains and the rainy season is fairly extended, there is practically no scientific large scale retention of water.
Bangalore is also one of the few cities that has two clear cut rainy seasons-the primary of south west monsoon from June to September and the north east or secondary monsoon from November to December. The average rainfall in Bangalore is 859 mm.
Besides, the summers-March-April and May-are generally moderated by fairly frequent thunderstorms and intermittent rains. The heaviest rainfall recorded in a 24-hour period is 179 millimetres (7.0 in) on October, 1997.
Yet, these flattering statistics do not mean much as water supply has always been a problem in and to Bangalore. For decades, Bangalore has not been able to completely meet the water needs of its residents.
However, this year the water crisis is likely to be more pronounced. The Cauvery verdict restricts the amount of water that the State can draw from Cauvery for providing drinking water to Bangalore. Moreover, tanks, lakes and other water bodies have run dry and the water availability in borewells have depleted.
Bangalore today needs  600 cusecs of water per day or the total water supply per day is put at 950 million litres per day. The per capita water supply is 147 litres per day.
Much of Bangalore’s water needs is met from the Cauvery. Earlier, TG Halli added to the water supply but today it adds to the water woes as it is almost dry.  
Supposing that the monsoon sets in on time in June, Bangalore requires till May end 3.6 tmc ft water just to meet its drinking water needs. Now the question is where is Bangalore going to get its water.
Hesarghatta has completely dried, TG hall has stopped pumping and more water cannot be lifted from the Cauvery.  Hence, the State has to supply water to Bangalore from some of the reservoirs such as KRS, Hemavathi, Harangi and Kabini.
The live storage above sill level at KRS is 4.553 tmc ft, at Hemavathi it is 4.289 tmc ft,  Harangi 5.37 tmc and the live storage above sill level at Kabini is zero.
Since this limited the option of the State Government, it did the next best thing. It ordered mini hydel stations to stop generating electricity and ordered that the water held in the power stations could be used for meting Bangalore’s growing thirst for water.
Thus, we had the Minister for Energy and Bangalore Water Supply, S. Suresh Kumar, directing the Energy department and the Cauvery Neeravari Nigam to stop power generation at four mini hydel plants.
Following the directive,  power generation has stopped at Shiva Balancing Reservoir (SBR), which had reached 3.34 feet (minus 40 inches) last week. Since then, Bangalore has been receiving water from the Shiva Balancing Reservoir.
The Shimsha power unit too has gone silent and its waters are being diverted to Bangalore. The two private power generating companies at Madhavamantri and Satyagala barrage too have been asked to stop power supply and instead divert water to Bangalore.
Both Madhavamantri and Satyagala together produced  0.7 MW of power were using water from the upstream of the river course.
Their practice of storing water and using it later had caused imbalance in the flow to Shiva Balance Reservoir (SBR).
Similarly, the Shiva and the Shimsha power plants used water that  would flow down to the river after power generation. These plants generated less than one per cent of the total power generated in State. However, they used nearly 50 cusecs of water which otherwise could be used for drinking water supply.
The Government has set up a vigilance committee comprising the heads of these departments as well as deputy commissioners of Mysore, Mandya and Chamarajanagar to ensure smooth flow of water along the river course and to keep a tab  on unauthorised drawing of water.
The committee has also been told to ensure that water is not used for power generation or irrigation activities for now. Thus, Bangaloreans should thanks the stars for getting exclusive water

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