Climate of Change: Acting early to turn tide against supply woes in India's Bengaluru

BENGALURU • Apocalyptic scenarios of a "day zero" when taps run dry in Bengaluru may never materialise if the initiatives taken by the government come to fruition.

If all goes to plan, Bengaluru may even be transformed from a city that depends on other parts of the state of Karnataka for its water into a hub that will supply water to surrounding districts in the coming years.

Among the chief problems faced by residents of Bengaluru is that the city's water supply and sewerage system do not cover its entire expanse. Many areas have been left without a water connection as the city has grown.

Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) chairman Tushar Girinath told The Sunday Times that the utility body had pulled out all the stops to address the problem and work was under way to connect all areas to water lines by June or July next year.

Even the city's sewerage network is inadequate, which complicates the problem. Mr Girinath said that while work has started late, it is likely to be fully completed by 2021.

Given that even the existing supply is inadequate for the city of over 11 million people, the BWSSB has also launched a project called Cauvery Stage 5 to source 10 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) more water from the Cauvery river - the main source of the information technology hub's water - at a cost of 550 million rupees (S$10 million).


Sewage being treated at a Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board plant. Sewage treatment plants are
being built in various locations to ensure Bengaluru's water sources do not get polluted.

Once the project is completed, the utility body will be in a position to supply 29 TMC of water a year to Bengaluru citizens, equivalent to about 2,175 million litres a day.

Given that even the existing supply is inadequate for the city of over 11 million people, the BWSSB has also launched a project called Cauvery Stage 5 to source 10 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) more water from the Cauvery river - the main source of the information technology hub's water - at a cost of 550 million rupees (S$10 million).

The BWSSB is also aiming to diversify its sources of water.

Another project has been initiated to draw 2.5 TMC of water from the Yettinahole river in the Western Ghats. The BWSSB is preparing reservoirs to receive water from the river by 2020.

Meanwhile, sewage treatment plants are being built in various locations in and around Bengaluru to ensure that the city's water sources, like its lakes, do not get polluted. Mr Girinath said the aim is to treat all of the waste water generated by the city by 2020.

 
 
 

But, unlike in Singapore, the treated water will not be used for drinking, as it is treated only to secondary standards rather than with tertiary methods required for potable water.

Instead, the BWSSB aims to route some of the water for industrial and agriculture use, as well as to replenish groundwater levels in the districts surrounding the state.

The BWSSB has also made it mandatory for all new dwellings in the city with 20 units or more to install their own sewage treatment plants within their complexes.

And all new constructions, as well as existing buildings above a certain size, are required to install rainwater harvesting structures to further reduce the need for fresh water. Failure to do so draws a penalty.

"Both ways, from the demand side and the supply side, we have to manage this water requirement, and on both sides, we are doing our best," said Mr Girinath.

Arvind Jayaram

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 28, 2018, with the headline 'Acting early to turn tide against supply woes'. Print Edition | Subscribe