Homes and gardens

City needs better water management

A recent report called the Composite Water Index developed by the NITI Ayog - http://niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/document_publication/2018-05-18-Water-Index-Report_vS8-compressed.pdf - suggested that Bengaluru and Hyderabad are likely to run out of groundwater by 2020. While this may be alarmist, the call to action is clear if we want groundwater to supplement the water source from the Cauvery for the city. After all, the monies amounting to Rs. 8,000 crores invested mostly by citizens at current prices, for the over 400,000 borewells cannot be allowed to become a dead asset.

The institutional strengthening and management of groundwater needs to happen quickly. Currently the Groundwater Authority looking after the whole of the urban area has 3 people. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board has no separate groundwater wing neither any specialised persons working to understand and manage it. Rainwater harvesting which also seeks to recharge groundwater has one engineer in charge. The Mahanagara Palike has no wing working on groundwater.

The institutional framework will need to be strengthened quickly as would the current legal framework. Ideally the Groundwater Authority would work in close coordination with the BWSSB, which would have a separate specialised unit to manage groundwater for the city.

Understanding sub-aquifers

The data collection granularity and understanding sub-aquifers would need to improve. A wealth of information is available with the traditional well digging community, the Mannu Vaddars. They know where the dug wells of Bengaluru are, how deep they are, what is the water quantity and quality. Their traditional knowledge is currently underutilised. By upgrading their skills particularly with regard to rainwater harvesting and by enhancing their livelihood opportunities, the water resilience of the city can be built up.

The UN world water development report for 2018 - http://www.unwater.org/publications/world-water-development-report-2018/ - is titled ‘Nature based solutions for water.’ It suggests that the time has come to move from hard infrastructure-based ‘grey’ solutions to the more nature-based ‘green’ solutions such as rejuvenation of lakes and wetlands, rainwater harvesting, aquifer recharge et al.

Rejuvenation of the tanks of Bengaluru and amalgamating wetlands in them is a low hanging fruit. The recent excellent work demonstrated at Agara lake is worth emulating for many more lakes. Puttenahalli, Kaikondarahalli, Jakkur, Rachenahalli and many more have shown that lake rejuvenation can benefit the groundwater aquifer in the surrounds thus adding to water security for the city. In many places such as Malleswaram, Sheshadripuram, Palace Guttahalli, Pottery Town, Shivajinagar, Yelahanka, and Shivananda Circle, the older parts of the city, open wells exist and they have water. Many households use these wells regularly. The coming of piped water has meant that the wells went into neglect and disuse. By a judicious mix of rainwater harvesting, awareness building and linking it to the traditional knowledge of the well diggers these wells can be revived and more wells can be dug to supplement water requirements.

Here the regressive rule of the BWSSB of charging Rs. 100 a month for well water use as ‘sanitary cess’ will need to be revisited and changed. By using well water, households are substituting for far away, expensive and high energy embodied Cauvery water. If a household revives an open well and recharges it with rainwater it should be rewarded and not punished.

It is time we looked at nature-based solutions through a policy lens of better groundwater management and revive the culture of the open well. By proving the NITI Aayog and its report wrong, Bengaluru can demonstrate that another Cauvery exists below the feet and this Antaragange will build water resilience for the city. That would be groundwater wisdom.


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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 9:10:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/city-needs-better-water-management/article24291699.ece

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