Bangalore receives up to 810 million litres a day from the Cauvery river through pipelines that travel 100km to the city. Earlier this week, news of the possible shutdown of Cauvery water supply due to maintenance work, caused residents to fill their tanks/buckets a day in advance.
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The Karnataka Power Transmission Corp. Ltd averted the crisis (a large swathe of the city was expected to be without water for 48 hours) by shifting the load to another power generation unit.
No doubt the shutdown would have been chaotic, but there are residents and organizations that can hold out even if the Bangalore Water and Sewerage Supply Board (BWSSB) fails to deliver.
Vishwanath S. who runs the Rainwater Club (www.rainwaterclub.org) points out that if Bangalore collected just 30% of its rainfall, it would equal the quantity of water that it sources from the Cauvery.
He says parts of the city are on the road to becoming self-reliant, but there’s still a long way to go. “Right now most of Bangalore does fairly well with the Cauvery water supply, but there are several areas on the peripheries that don’t have access to these lines. These localities depend on ground water and are therefore becoming more aware about the need to recharge the water in the ground.”
One such place is Rainbow Drive, a gated community on Bangalore’s Sarjapura road. Rainbow Drive does not have an external water supply to speak of and so its residents dug seven bore wells to maintain water supply to the 200 houses in the colony. Over time, five of the wells dried up. The residents then got in touch with the Rainwater Club and dug around 10 recharge wells in the area to keep their bore wells alive; they plan to dig at least 15 more. In addition, 25 residents have dug similar recharge wells on their plots.
Vishwanath who lives in Vidayranyapura, a locality that gets a healthy supply of water from the BWSSB, does not depend on the external water source. He collects close to 10,000 litres by way of rainwater harvesting, and this lasts the family of three close to 300 days. “We manage because we are very thrifty in our water use and even use eco sand toilets that don’t require water. We also treat our waste water from the washing machine and use it to water the plants”.
But fast-drying bore wells are the lifelines of areas such as Amruthahalli, on the road to Bengaluru International Airport, that do not have access to municipal water. While a few apartments in the area practice rainwater harvesting because of a new law that makes rainwater harvesting mandatory in new buildings, the independent houses depend on local bore wells. “We collect water from the bore well every morning and that has kept us going so far,” says Chandru, a local bakery owner in Amruthahalli.
And self-sustenance works with larger organizations as well. Infosys Technologies Ltd does depend on the BWSSB for fresh potable water, but a percentage of their requirement comes from tube wells on their campus. Also, the campus sources water for landscape maintenance from its sewage treatment facility. No waste water is discharged outside the campus.
Even Bangalore’s biggest green lung, the Lalbagh Botanical Garden, stands independent. The garden has a small lake and water from here is treated in a sewage treatment plant and used for gardening. Likewise for the garden space around the beautiful Sankey tank, a man-made lake in Malleshwaram.
Just one (the Tippagondnahalli lake on the outskirts of the city) of the 81 existing lakes in Bangalore is still known to be a source of water. The rest, at best, can be used for irrigation purposes or to recharge the ground water in the areas that they lie in.
Photographs by Hemant Mishra