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Capping the catchment

S. Vishwanath.
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As water becomes an issue between States, managing forests, agriculture and groundwater is vital for a city, writes S. Vishwanath.

Close connection:A city has to understand and manage its water demand in the context of river basins.
Close connection:A city has to understand and manage its water demand in the context of river basins.

A city is not isolated from the river basin it is located in. It has to interact, understand and manage its water demand in the context of this basin.

The city of Bangalore, for example, is only partially located in the Cauvery basin as it discovered when the Cauvery river water tribunal was deciding on the allocation of water to various demands in the entire basin.

When water allocation had to be made between States, the primary demands listed were for agriculture, domestic needs and industrial demand. These are often competing demands even within States.

Direct impact

What are the direct consequences of not engaging with a river basin and its demands? Rivers can dry up and are no longer reliable water sources.

The Arkavathi, for example, has dried up primarily because land use has changed in the upstream areas of the river and agriculture has consumed surface and groundwater at unit levels which no longer permit water to emerge in rivers either as surface flows or as groundwater base flows.

And so, managing forests and agriculture as well as groundwater becomes crucial. Waste water flows from the city also go into the basin inevitably, impacting the quality of river water and groundwater, sometimes contaminating them deeply.

The Vrishbhavathi, for instance, is a perennial sewage flow that messes up the lakes and reservoirs built on it as well as the river itself, causing irreparable harm to the fishermen and farmers who depend on the river for livelihood as well as impacting the food and vegetables produced for the city.

The Musi in Hyderabad is another classic example, as is the Cooum in Chennai, which was once used to ferry people across the city and now exists as a wasted source.

Consequence

So, what happens when basin planning is not done? When unplanned and unregulated, competing demands from agriculture, industry and the city cause conflicts between farmers and several others. When the reservoir on the rivers feeding water to cities also has to release water into the canals for irrigation, tension mounts and the certainty of receiving water comes into doubt for all consumers.

Contamination

Fruits and vegetables coming into the city can become contaminated with the sewage from the city itself.

Industrial production may need to stop and factories close for want of water. Energy generation from thermal and hydro power units will slow down as the water runs out. It is time cities learnt to engage with catchments and basins.

If not engaged, rivers can dry up and are no longer reliable water sources


1

  • When water allocation had to be made between States, the primary demands listed were for agriculture, domestic needs and industrial use



  • 3

  • When the reservoir on the rivers feeding water to cities also has to release water into the canals for irrigation, tensions mount



  • 2

  • Waste-water flows from the city go to the local river basin, negatively impacting river water and groundwater quality


  • The culprit

    The Arkavathi has dried up mainly because land use has changed in the upstream areas of the river and agriculture has consumed surface and groundwater at unit levels. Water no longer emerges in rivers either as surface flows or as groundwater base flows.


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