The word ‘water’ has only one meaning, but in Bengaluru, if you ask whom this water belongs to, it’s like opening Pandora’s Box. There are multiple agencies all overseeing the same resource. With recent events in Bengaluru city, like the disastrous breach of Hulimavu lake, it becomes imperative to ponder the issue and to give it greater importance and urgency. The surface water in lakes belongs to the BBMP, BDA and Forest Department, whereas the drains that carry both rainwater and sewage belong to the BBMP’s SWD department. Ground water belongs to the Groundwater Authority. However, water services and utilities like water supply sewage treatment, rainwater harvesting and commercial groundwater usage (even though this comes under the GWA), all come under one more department, the BWSSB. Hence, anything related to water is technically the gambit of the BWSSB except for lakes and water in drains. This is all very confusing.
With this in mind, discussions should be initiated for one single institution for the word ‘water’ – an Integrated Water Resources Management agency should become the guiding institution for better management of the resource in every form, whether it’s surface, ground, rain or sewage. Reimagining the original purpose of lakes as reservoirs, which was for potable and agriculture purposes can now be envisioned as contained treated water that can be used for other purposes like construction and gardening, or non potable use.
BWSSB using Bengaluru lakes to store high-quality treated water is therefore a possibility. All this can only happen if water and its services come under one department. This needs to be in keeping with the spirit of the 74th Constitutional Amendment, so the BBMP would be responsible for all properties but services and utilities should come under BWSSB.
To achieve this, an institutional frame work as suggested in the IWRM policy by the Knowledge Commission has to be implemented in word and spirit.
– Ram Prasad is a co founder, Friends of Lakes