Friday, 5 July 2013

Exhausting the Cauvery

Even as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are getting set to engage in another prolonged battle over the sharing of the Cauvery water,  another little known fact has been completely glossed over and this directly affects the water supply to Bangalore.
Bangalore, as we all know, alone requires 1400 million liters of water per day or eighteen thousand million cubic feet (TMC) every day. Unfortunately, Karnataka can draw only 682.5 million litres a day as per the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
There is no way Karnataka can unilaterally increase its drawal from the Cauvery. The tribunal has allocated only 8.75 TMC for the entire urban and rural population in Cauvery basin in Karnataka.
One TMC equals 78 MLD and if you take this calculation, Bangalore city itself is already drawing more water than the entire allocation. So the question is how is the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), which is the nodal agency for supply of water to Bangalore and surrounding areas, going to deal with the issue.
There is another peculiar problem. Bangalore city comes under two river basins-Cauvery and Pennaiyar. Only Cauvery basin areas of Bangalore can receive Cauvery water and this means that only half of the Bangalore is eligible for Cauvery as the rest fall under the Pennaiyar basin.
Bangalore has over 7 lakh water connections or consumers and a majority of them are supplied water from the Cauvery. Borewell accounts for 20 per cent to 25 per cent of water supplied and the Arkavathy, including TG Halli, a much smaller percentage.
The City has over 500 kilometers of water pipelines, apart from 250 kilometres of bulk supply lines that carry Cauvery water from all the four stages.  The Cauvery is transported over a distance of 95 kilometres from its source in Kanakapura taluk-Thorekadananhall- to Bangalore city.
Apart from the waters of the Cauvery, the borewells today supply 300 MLD of water and there are 312,000 borewells today and their numbers are increasing. The unchecked growth of borewells has led to a situation where the ground water level has depleted and it is common in almost all areas of Bangalore to drill more than 1200 feet to obtain good water.
Since all the water lines are interlinked, the question is how is the BWSSB going to delink the Cauvery basin areas of Bangalore from the non-basin areas and how will the other half get its share of water.
If and when the tribunal decided to enforce its order or if Tamil Nadu decided to take this issue up in a serious manner, what will Karnataka do. Should they not strive for a viable alternative.
With the Cauvery now no longer available for drawal of water, the State Government must act now itself to find other sources to quench Bangalore’s growing thirst for water. Or else Bangalore will face the same fate as Fathepur Sikri, near Agra, did after the Mughal Emperor Akber built it in 1569. The only other example of a City falling off the urban landscape due to severe water shortage apart from Fathepur Sikri is Bijapur in north Karnataka. After Bijapur fell to the Mughals in 1686, it soon turned into a ghost city after a series of famines, drought and severe water scarcity ravaged the province.
Coming back to Bangalore and its water supply, as it is, the gap between demand and supply of water has been increasing and the BWSSB has not been able to close the gap.
The per capita water supply that BWSSB provides is 100 to 125 liters per capital per day. However, the actual availability of water to slums and poor areas is as low as 40 to 45 liters per day. This when the per capita national standard is 150 to 200 liters per day
One of the best ways to solve the water woes is to plug the leakages which is as high as 40 per cent from the Cauvery water supply schemes only, meter the water outlets and introduce water auditing. Other measures such as rain water harvesting, recycling of water and better storage and conservation techniques can go a long extent in improving the water supply position.
But the first and foremost solution would be to revive the many tanks and lakes in and around Bangalore, desilt the storm water drains, clean encroachments from water bodies, tank beds and raja kaluves and also reintroduce the City’s lost greenery.   
However, the basic question here is how long can we turn a blind eye to the final report of the tribunal and continue to draw more water to Bangalore than it has been allocated. What happens if the tribunal decides to enforce the order.
Bangalore, therefore, has no go but to seek alternate avenues of augmenting its water supply even as it reduces or minimizes its dependence on the Cauvery.    

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