A coordinated plan for sustainable water supply can possibly be developed, integrating groundwater, surface water and stormwater, to meet the city's needs, says S. Vishwanath

If the challenge posed by inadequate water supply and bad sanitation systems has to be overcome we will need to look further than the technical aspects of the solution. Institution building and capacity enhancement will be crucial to ensure adequate governance, accountability and sustainable solutions.

The institutions will have to start right at the apartment association level when it comes to apartments, and layout residents' association when it comes to layouts. Most of the management of infrastructure falls into the association's hands once the builder or developer hands over charge. Do the associations have the capability to assume this responsibility?

Professional facility management companies are coming into the scene but most of the apartments and layouts lie outside their zone of activity.

Capacity will therefore need to be developed to coordinate the management of borewell, sewage treatment plant (STP), water tanker, rainwater harvesting system and solid waste management system.

At a higher level, lakes, groundwater and stormwater remain unmanaged or weakly managed. A water utility like the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board is best suited to be expanded and given the responsibility.

A coordinated plan for sustainable water supply can possibly be developed, integrating groundwater, surface water and stormwater, to meet the city's needs.

The city also has to look at the basin it is located in and find ways of ensuring that the catchments of the reservoirs and rivers that feed it are managed properly.

Finding that the absence of a catchment management plan leaves reservoirs empty or river flows dropping is not a conducive situation for water supply.

River basin institution

A catchment management institution or even better, a river basin institution planning and managing surface water and groundwater, would be the future of water management. We need to work on creating and developing such institutions soon. For a start the Arkavathi river basin institution could be created to bring convergence on all the interventions happening in the basin to either use up or resuscitate tanks and channels.

This 190-km.-long river with about 4,400 sq. km basin area could provide the impetus for other tributaries of the Cauvery, the Krishna and the west-flowing rivers to have their own river basin institutions. Competing demands for water and river flows can be understood and managed better.

Institutional development and staff capacity building needs a completely different skill-set. The focus is also on human resources. By putting the right expertise on the matter and by focussing on the issue the ‘Jala Samvardhane' for tank rehabilitation and the Watershed Development Department was built up. We need to do the same for city-level water management and river basin-level water management and the time is now. Without the right institutional and legal framework all interventions will be sub-optimal.