This is 2019, and some of the residents of Bengaluru have already started facing the drastic effects of water shortage. Forced to live on bottled waters for 36 hours, the residents of a 330-apartment complex, SJR Verity located on Sarjapur road had no other option but to pay a private tanker Rs.1500 instead of regular Rs.500. And it is because most of the borewells in the city have dried up.
Concretization And Infrastructure Projects Affecting Water Level
According to Bengaluru-based water activist and co-founder of Biome Environmental Solutions, Vishwanath Srikantaiah, rampant concretization and infrastructure projects including white topping has cut down the amount of water that seeps through the aquifers by 3%. He says that the scenario looks even worse for 2020.
The Co-ordinator, Energy and Wetlands Research Group, CES, Indian Institute of Science.TV Ramachandra, says “We can expect most borewells in wards with large scale concretization and over-exploitation of groundwater to dry up.”
Recently, the BWSSB Chief Engineer (Maintenance) BC Gangadhar said, “With two-three spells of rain, the borewells will get recharged.” But both Ramachandra and Srikantaiah differ with this opinion. Srikantaiah said, “Even if it rains very well, if you have not designed systems, wells will not recharge.”
According to him, the right way to do so is to “collect rainwater, filter it and place it into a recharge well – typically 10-20 feet and three feet in diameter. This rainwater then reaches the groundwater table and recharges the borewells.”
Borewells are going dry because the groundwater is not getting recharged due to illegal pumping, cannibalism of lakes and concretization on large scale. The only possible to recharge the groundwater is through the porous layer. But concretization does not allow enough water to penetrate the earth leading to other side effects like flooding whenever there is an excess rainfall.
The City Of Lakes Struggling For Water
Bengaluru was famous as the Lake City with more than 300 lakes adequately fulfilling its water needs despite the absence of a river nearby. Also, lakes play a key role in recharging groundwater. However, most of the lakes in Bengaluru are either not desilted regularly or have been encroached upon.
According to Ayyappa Masagi also known as the moniker of Water Gandhi, “In the past, there was no water shortage despite the absence of rivers because the city had over 300 water tanks (keres). When it rained, the water would flow from all around the city into these tase tanks. When the tanks overflowed, the excess water ended up in the three main valleys in the city area: Hebbal, Challaghatta, and Vrishabhavathi. Plus, the bowl-like topography of Bengaluru makes it ideal for storing groundwater.”
Masagi who has recharged 2,50,143 borewells, built 900 lakes and installed 37,600 rainwater systems says that the number of water bodies in Bengaluru and its overall storage capacity has come down. Ramchandra says, “In Nagashetti Halli, water was available at 150-300 feet hen there was a lake. With the removal of the lake, the water table has now gone down to 1400-1600 feet and there is no water.”
The cultivation of cash crops like sugarcane in large amount is also enhancing the water shortage problem further. Water-intensive crops like sugarcane have now largely taken over the traditional crops like pulses and native crops that minimize consumption of water. More forests have been converted into agricultural land.
Preparing For The Water Shortage Ahead
Bengalureans cannot depend on rainfall for fulfilling its water inadequacy. For the second consecutive year, Karnataka is facing a drought-like situation. Bengaluru has finished off its fossil groundwater. This type of groundwater takes almost a decade or even centuries to gather. But now the residents of the city cannot look up to groundwater. So, what to do now?
Experts believe that more than the rain deficit, what matters the most is what the Bengalureans can do now. Masagi co-owns a 16-acre farm with two other persons in Tumkur.
The place received the rainfall of four inches on May 26. The founder of Water Literacy Foundation says, “With just that spell, I was able to return 1 crore liters of water to the earth. That’s because I have built a network of five borewells, 189 pits, and 19 infiltration wells. We were also able to channel 2 crore liters of water to the seven lakes we have built around the farm.” The Water Literacy Foundation conducts training of rainwater harvesting across India.
Srikantaiah says, “From now on, the groundwater that Bengaluru will be entitled to be what we can replenish annually through rains.” He believes that this offers an opportunity to “put 50 percent of rains into our aquifer, equivalent to 1,500 million liters per day, which equals what we receive from the Cauvery per day.”
The water activist believes that Bengalureans still have a few months to prepare for the act because Karnataka will receive 50% of its rains between August and October.