Water situation is of concern, but not as alarming as it is being projected: BWSSB Chairman

About 34 tmc ft of water is being stored in four Cauvery basin reservoirs, which is sufficient for taking care of the needs of Bengaluru and other cities until the next monsoon

Updated - March 17, 2024 02:11 pm IST

Published - March 16, 2024 10:09 pm IST - Bengaluru

Ram Prasath Manohar, BWSSB Chairman

Ram Prasath Manohar, BWSSB Chairman | Photo Credit: RAVICHANDRAN N.

As the water situation in Bengaluru and regions around the Cauvery basin continues to dominate headlines after a drought-hit 2023 in Karnataka, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) chairman Ram Prasath Manohar, in an interview to The Hindu, says though the situation is concerning, drinking water needs will be fulfilled until the monsoon. Here are the excerpts:

What is the status of water availability right now for Bengaluru? What’s the usual demand and supply scenario compared to the current situation?

Bengaluru has a population of 1.4 crore. we have 1,450 MLD supply through the Cauvery network which extensively covers the core areas and parts of the CMC and TMC limits of the BBMP limits. In addition, there are 110 villages which are solely reliant on borewell water. The reason for the current shortage is that borewell levels have gone down here due to the shortage of rainfall. However, we are taking steps to augment the supply. Overall, the water situation is of concern, but not as alarming as it is being projected.

Are we getting the required quantum of water from the Cauvery?

The required quantum is 1.56 tmc ft per month. We have enough for drinking purposes, but not for irrigation. About 34 tmc ft of water is being stored in four reservoirs, which is sufficient for taking care of the needs of Bengaluru and other cities until the next monsoon as we require eight to 10 tmc ft for the next four to six months for drinking water purposes for Bengaluru.

Citizens are alleging that the government was caught napping despite the drought last year. Was the government prepared for this situation given that drought was declared last year?

The government was aware of the situation and that is why in December, we started writing to the Cauvery Neeravari Nigam to store sufficient water for drinking water needs. Secondly, we have also identified about 257 water stressed areas in the BBMP limits and have taken steps to put booster pumps here. We have also procured additional tankers. All these were part of preparatory measures. But there is an overreaction due to social media and media reports.

We assure you that there is enough water for drinking and cooking purposes. For other purposes, we urge citizens to use treated water which is ecofriendly and better than borewell water. We have 1,300 MLD available and it needs an attitudinal change. The construction industries have come forward to use it already. We have started an app, Parisara Jalasnehi, for this. It is also very cheap — ₹10 for 1,000 litres. At this point, providing tankers from the BWSSB will be difficult, but consumers can take it by hiring their own tankers. If need be, we can also make this free.

What is the government doing to rejuvenate the city’s lakes, rivers, and waterbodies that played an important role in maintaining the water balance of Bengaluru but have fallen to disuse or have been encroached upon now?

Bengaluru is a city with lakes, mostly manmade and built in such a way that rainwater dropping in the northern portion flows down to the south and fills the lakes. Unfortunately, due to extraneous urbanisation, the lake system has been disturbed. Now, it is our duty to protect the lakes and their channels so that they can be a source of water for future generations. Vrishabhavati needs a long-term and comprehensive project. The government is looking into that.

Though it has been mandatory for certain categories of structures, rainwater harvesting continues to be poor. What will the BWSSB do about this?

Rainwater harvesting is a beneficial activity for consumers. It will directly benefit them by recharging their borewells. But rainwater is being let into the drains. Apart from this, people should also come forward to set up percolation pits in their vicinity and for community rainwater harvesting. The future will be bright this way, or else it will be a challenge.

What are the long-term steps the government is taking to secure the water security of the city?

We have three sources — Cauvery, groundwater and used and treated water. Treated water should be used to bridge the gap. As for rainwater, we have had flooding earlier due to excessive rain. If this is harvested by everyone, groundwater can be saved and percolated to the ground and become a natural sump.

Beginning now, what should citizens start doing to conserve water, irrespective of the monsoon’s success? And what will the government machinery do?

This shortage is manmade as borewells have been overexploited and due to water usage patterns — Cauvery water, the purest water, is being used for toilets. It is not a good idea. People need to use treated water for non-drinking and cooking purposes. Everyone should be conscious while using water. Save water, save Bengaluru.

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