Bangalore needs to wake up to the fact that digging borewells is not the solution to our water woes. After all, the aquifers we depend on are finite

Bangalore is not yet in the full blown grip of summer and already we can hear the incessant growl of the water tankers rushing about, and the mounting pressure of a shortage of fresh water in the city.

“I look out of my window and see lines of women and children at 2 in the morning, waiting desperately to get that pot of water,” reveals Leo Saldanha who works with the Environment Support Group. “ What are their family stress levels? Can the authorities and us citizens not see that it’s a serious crisis which we are facing with fresh water in the city?” he asks.

Last week, facebook was full of an online story which stated that the Government of Karnataka will have to evacuate half of Bangalore in the next 10 years, due to water scarcity, contamination of water and diseases, cited by V. Balasubramanian, the former Additional Chief Secretary of Karnataka and Chairman, Centre for Policies and Practices, who conducted an elaborate study of the water woes of the state capital. “No one is interested in trying to conserve fresh water,” says Jeff D’Lemos a concerned ground water specialist. “Bangalore is perched 3000 ft above sea level on granite and the clay soil cover prevents the water from sinking down into the soil. All we are doing in Bangalore is essentially ‘mining’ the water which has been there for centuries. Once that is over there is no more to be had.”

The government needs to legislate the siphoning of borewell water, he feels. There was talk about registering borewells but all that talk has died down, he says. How can we close the gate when the horse has already run away he asks? D’Lemos feels it is important to replenish the borewells with rain water harvesting and that each of us citizens need to harvest rain water, without it being made mandatory.

Bore-wells are essentially tapping into ground water aquifers which have collected in fissures of rock. If we do not replenish what we have taken how can we expect to retain the bore-well and keep its water at healthy levels?

“There is a shocking display of administrative apathy,” rues Saldanha. “ One can see the water merchants doing business all over the city without regulation. Water should be accessible to all, not just those who can pay for it. If there is a water crisis we need to shut down all the private swimming pools and fountains in the city. All this water should be saved only for drinking purposes,” he says firmly.

The picture shows a borewell in Sarjapur around which D’Lemos has advised putting a layer of sand and gravel and then letting rain water percolate directly into it. “This method has had good results,” he says,” but many bore-wells are unreachable due to the close building of high rise apartment blocks. So rain water harvesting should be done anywhere in the open areas to at least replenish the water table of the area.”

Acquifers that borewells tap into are finite. So is that story doing the rounds on FB about evacuating Bangalore going to come true, in a decade? “Less than that, if we don’t take strict measures to help ourselves,” foresees D’Lemos.