Bengaluru may soon run out of water

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NEW DELHI: Is Bengaluru going to run out of water soon? Bengaluru is not far behind to face the threat of water crisis, like Cape town in South Africa.

Bengaluru ranks second in a list of 11 cities list, after Brazil Sao Paulo and above China capital Beijing, that are facing the imminent threat of running out of water based on an UN-backed study, published by the BBC. The other cities on the list are Cairo, Jakarta, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo and Miami.

The study found that the city’s infrastructure was unable to scale up to match rising population, particularly water and sewage systems. As a result, a large amount of water was either wasted or is too polluted to use.

The city of lakes does not have a single lake whose water is fit for human consumption, the study found. According to a report in The Guardian, Bangalore had 285 lakes in the 1970s, the number of which reduced to 194 lakes in 2017.

According to the 2016 city-based Environmental Management & Policy Research Institute (EMPRI) study, nearly 85% of Bengaluru’s surveyed water bodies had water that could only be used for irrigation and industrial cooling, and not a single lake had suitable water for drinking or bathing.

According to a study by Indian Institute of Science (IISC), the city is experiencing unprecedented rapid urbanisation and sprawl in recent times due to unplanned unrealistic concentrated developmental activities. This has posed serious challenges to the decision-makers in the city planning and management process involving a plethora of serious challenges such as loss of green cover and water bodies, climate change, enhanced greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, lack of appropriate infrastructure, traffic congestion, and lack of basic amenities (electricity, water, and sanitation) in many localities, etc.

“Bengaluru’s lakes had a storage capacity of 35 tmcft of water in 1800 and the lakes had been interlinked in such a way that water was available throughout the year. Now, a majority of the lakes have disappeared and the current storage capacity is less than 2 tmcft of water, while the city’s current monthly requirement itself is 1.5 tmcft,” found the above-quoted IISc research. One tmc ft of water is equal to 2,816 crore litres and it can satisfy the needs of six lakh people per year.

The study says that between 1973 and 2016, the city witnessed a 1005% increase in “concretization or paved surface increase.”

Since 1981, the city has spatially spread from 221 sq.km (2001) to 741 sq.km (2006, Greater Bangalore). The city also witnessed “dramatic” decadal (2001 to 2011) population growth of 44%. Between 2001 and 2011, the population of the city had grown from 4.3 Million to 8.4 Million and the population density increased from 7880 persons per square kilometer to over 11,330 persons per square kilometer, says the study.

KJ George, Bengaluru development minister, admitted that the availability of water per person per day will be 88 litres by 2031 when the city’s population will touch 20 million.

Currently, the norm for domestic water usage is 135 litres per capita per day as prescribed the Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organization.

The state government claimed to spend Rs 5,500 crore by 2023 to increase water availability for Bengaluru to 2,175 million litres per day (MLD) from the current 1,391 MLD. In fact, the 1,391 MLD comprises 678 MLD of Cauvery river water, 672 MLD of groundwater and 41MLD of recycled water.

The Asian Development Bank stated that India will have a water deficit of 50% by 2030. Other estimates have suggested that the people may evacuate the city by 2025.

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