Drinking water supply in Belgaum city has got a fresh lease of life with the city corporation and the residents joining hands to rejuvenate open wells that were treated like dump yards until a few years ago.

Most of the 31 high yielding big wells and 21 small open wells dug during the British regime, or even before that, were filled with silt after immersion of Ganesh idols.

The well revival campaign was conceived in 1995 when Rakaskop reservoir, the main source of water supply to the city, dried up and the local administration started searching for alternative water sources.

The senior citizens forum suggested rejuvenation of public wells. The corporation sought the services of Chachadi A.G., the then Head of the Department of Geology at Goa University, who along with others studied the viability of the project and gave a go-ahead, BCC City Engineer (North) R.S. Nayak told The Hindu.

However, it was not an easy task. It was not possible to use heavy equipment to remove silt from wells, and workers were not willing to do it manually. Then, one of the local residents got himself into an open-top barrel and went down into the well with the help of a rope and a pulley. He shovelled the silt into a bucket and it was taken up. Silt was removed from other wells using the same method.

Since then, 21 big wells and 32 small wells, including the Baara Ghadaghadyachi Vihir at Hutatma Chowk and the one at Sheri Galli, have been rejuvenated. Baara Ghadaghadyachi Vihir, one of the main sources of drinking water to the city in the past, was closed in 1974 when the Rakaskop reservoir was commissioned.

Now, these wells cater to the drinking water needs of around 2 lakh residents. The total population of Belgaum city is more than 5 lakh.

Twenty-one wells have been fitted with mini filter units and a storage tank to connect directly to taps. Thirty-two small wells have been connected to Public Stand Posts. Another 10 big wells owned by private individuals will also be rejuvenated in phases.

“These steps will lead to augmentation of surface water by ground water from unconfined aquifers. Mini filter plants and dozing systems can be fixed later for supply of potable water on a sustainable basis,” Mr. Nayak said.

With this, the city now gets water from Rakaskop, Hidkal, World Bank aided 24x7 water supply in select demo zones and the open wells. The National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee, has certified that these aquifers would sustain wells for at least the next five decades.

Mr. Nayak said the mini filter plant with 50,000 LPH filtration capacity could supply 4 lakh litres of water in eight hours. The expenditure is just 0.76 paise/kl, as against Rs. 10.50/kl for water from Hidkal dam, which is the second main source of water supply to the city. The total cost of project on each well was around Rs. 5 lakh. A solar pump has been used on experimental basis at one of these wells to cut down the cost.

Another significant aspect is that social and voluntary organisations and local residents did their bit by offering contributions and stopping immersions of idols. Some residents even volunteered to monitor the wells to ensure that garbage was not dumped there. Meanwhile, the BCC provided alternative sites for Ganesh idol immersion.

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