Seize the opportunity and act wisely

There is no substitute for citizenry which is water and ecologically literate, and understands the crisis. By S. Vishwanath

Summer has come with full force to the city. Around the State, 156 of the 174 taluks are affected by drought. The city utility has started pumping as much water as it can and more. At times 1,425 million litres per day is coming into the city, above the designed 1,375 mld. At the same time, borewells, especially in the periphery of the city, are drying up and people are struggling to buy water from private water tankers which are getting scarce and expensive.

A crisis is, however, always an opportunity to learn lessons. What are the lessons that Bengaluru can learn from this current water crisis? Here is a quick list:

Institutional lessons: Are the institutions capable of managing water for the city? The BWSSB is standing up to the pressure reasonably well. However, it is clear that it needs a lot of capacity building and financial muscle. It is clearly struggling to manage the sewage network and the sewage treatment plants. It clearly has been unable to reuse wastewater within the city in any significant volumes, say even for construction or for the gardens and parks in the city. This will need to be revisited quickly.

Groundwater Authority: There has been a complete inability to manage groundwater in any sense of the term. Borewells seem to be dug with impunity. Water seems to be sold indiscriminately and groundwater levels in the city are receding alarmingly. Recharge does not seem to be the focus and compliance is woeful. Unless groundwater is managed better and the institution responsible strengthened, it will prove disastrous to a city dependent on groundwater for up to 40 % of its water needs.

Lake management. There is complete confusion on who is to manage lakes and for what purpose. What exactly is the role of the KTCDA? As encroachments still continue, who should one protest to? Who is accountable and how should lakes be protected and the channels that lead to them? How is the BBMP to manage its lakes when it has no monies for its operation and maintenance? How is sewage to be prevented from entering the lakes? Nothing is clear.

Demand management: Apartments, layouts and even individual houses have to ask themselves some questions. Are each flat and home metered?

Are people aware of the waters they consume? Are they paying volumetrically and the correct price for the waters they consume? Is rainwater harvesting done? Is the wastewater recycling plant functional and being used?

Water literacy: Finally, there is no substitute for an aware citizenry which is water and ecologically literate, understands the crisis that is upon us and holds the state and its institutions accountable.

Please take a look at the data updated on the website daily. For the city of Bengaluru serial number 4,5,6 and 7 become important. It is the reservoir levels that determine the water security of our towns and cities. How about the health of the rivers itself? What should we be doing as citizen consumers of water from these rivers to ensure that the forests, the sand, the springs and the soil of these rivers and their tributaries are kept with ecological integrity? What is the food choice we make which will ensure that groundwater in the basin is used wisely?

Are not institutions of river basin management essentially to keep on top of the data and information as to what is happening to these rivers?

In the era of climate change, it is imperative that more and more of us engage in solutions of the right kind to enable water to be available for this and future generations and for nature too.

That would be water wisdom.

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