In­dia’s Sil­i­con Val­ley starved for wa­ter re­sources

Viet Nam News - - INSIGHT - Ai­jaz Rahi

BANGALORE, In­dia — In­dia’s Sil­i­con Val­ley is brac­ing for yet an­other thirsty sum­mer.

Faucets are run­ning dry and the lakes that once nur­tured the south­ern city of Bangalore and its nearly 10 mil­lion res­i­dents are ei­ther parched or fetid with in­dus­trial waste and toxic ef­flu­ents.

Much like Cape Town in South Africa, Bangalore’s wa­ter woes have been in the mak­ing for some time. Years of un­planned ur­ban­i­sa­tion, rapid pop­u­la­tion growth and poor man­age­ment of wa­ter re­sources have now reached a crit­i­cal point in the south­ern In­dian me­trop­o­lis.

A 2016 study by the En­ergy and Wet­lands Re­search Group at the In­dian In­sti­tute of Science in Bangalore showed that the city’s wa­ter bod­ies de­clined by as much as 80 per cent be­tween 1973 and 2016.

Over that same pe­riod, the con­crete area in the city, once known for its gar­dens and lakes, went up by more than 1,000 per cent.

T.V. Ra­machan­dra, the sci­en­tist who led the study, said mis­man­age­ment of both land and wa­ter re­sources has led to the cur­rent cri­sis, in which the city is now crit­i­cally de­pen­dent on the Cau­very river and the an­nual mon­soon rains as its prin­ci­pal sources of drink­ing wa­ter.

The lakes that once pro­vided nat­u­ral rain­wa­ter reser­voirs and helped recharge ground­wa­ter have largely given up the fight against ram­pant en­croach­ment. The few that have sur­vived the on­slaught are strug­gling.

Images of Bel­lan­dur Lake, the city’s largest wa­ter body, cov­ered with a foamy mix of filth, rou­tinely make the head­lines.

An­other ma­jor lake, Ul­soor, is choked with garbage and con­struc­tion waste and is gasping un­der a blan­ket of thick wa­ter­weeds.

And as the thirsty city looks des­per­ately for wa­ter, borewells are dig­ging deeper and deeper, each year de­plet­ing what re­mains of the city’s ground­wa­ter.

Large wa­ter stor­age tanks line the rooftops of Bangalore’s new com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial build­ings, which are al­most en­tirely de­pen­dent on pri­vate wa­ter sup­pli­ers.

A study re­cently pub­lished in a lead­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal mag­a­zine, Down to Earth, said Bangalore could go the Cape Town way - and face acute wa­ter scarcity in the not­too-dis­tant fu­ture.

The study said the wa­ter ta­ble in Bangalore has fallen from 1012 me­tres to 76-91 me­tres be­low the sur­face in the last two decades as the num­ber of ex­trac­tion wells soared.

Mo­bile tankers have be­come the wa­ter life­line for the city’s poorer res­i­dents, who line up ev­ery day to fill buck­ets and pots.

“There is se­vere cri­sis. The ac­tual suf­fer­ers are the poor peo­ple liv­ing in the slums,” said rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing ex­pert Ayyappa Masagi.

“Rich peo­ple can af­ford to buy wa­ter. Poor peo­ple are spend­ing like 2 to 5 ru­pees (510 cents) per pot of wa­ter,” he said. That’s a sig­nif­i­cant cost for peo­ple who some­times make less than 200 ru­pees a day.

With Bangalore’s pop­u­la­tion likely to reach 20 mil­lion by 2031, the city’s wa­ter trou­bles are likely to get worse.

Wa­ter sta­tions have al­ready popped up across the city for peo­ple to buy drink­ing wa­ter.

One res­i­dent, S.R. Reddy, said he was spend­ing over US$20 a month to buy wa­ter for his fam­ily.

“We spend one fourth of our earn­ings for wa­ter,” he said.

Ex­perts in Bangalore say the prob­lem is not the avail­abil­ity of wa­ter but its man­age­ment.

Ra­machan­dra, of the In­dian In­sti­tute of Science, said his study showed that al­most 70 per cent of the city’s wa­ter re­quire­ment could be ef­fec­tively har­vested from its an­nual rain­fall.

The study also rec­om­mended work­ing with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and en­sur­ing their par­tic­i­pa­tion in lake re­ju­ve­na­tion and waste man­age­ment plans.

Some cit­i­zens’ groups in Bangalore have be­gun to col­lab­o­rate with the city ad­min­is­tra­tion to help re­store the fresh wa­ter lakes.

Not too long ago one of the city’s old­est lakes, Agara Lake, was heav­ily pol­luted.

With fund­ing from the state gov­ern­ment, a project to man­age the sewage in­flow, re­moval of the weeds and de-silt­ing of the lake was started in 2016.

The lake is now show­ing signs of re­vival.— AP

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