Are we really running out of water? Besides BBC listing Bengaluru as one of the cities likely to face a Cape Town -like crisis in future, the NITI AYOG report says the water crisis will only get worse in the country with its water demand projected to double the present supply by 2030.
While this sounds alarming, let us analyse and objectively look into these forecasts. Even after accounting for a rise in the city’s population, which at present stands at 1.2 crore, and the rainfall pattern of the past decades, we can comfortably say that Bengaluru receives enough rain and if it is harvested properly it could meet its water needs. The city, which is spread over 800 sq.kms, receives nearly 17 TMC of rain water, while the total amount of water drawn from the Cauvery by the BWSSB is 19 TMC.
If this is seen as a solution then there is some hope of water security for everyone , including the urban poor. The other solutions that are being proposed are transporting water over long distances from Linganamakki and Mangaluru or desalination of seawater for pumping to the city. But all these come with high costs. Even the inter-linking of rivers is a costly affair and is also questionable given that it could lead to ecological damage and loss of biodiversity.
It is heartening that NITI AAYOG has discussed and taken note of the water issues of Bengaluru city, but the resilience of the people of Bengaluru is also noteworthy with many backing the “Million recharge wells campaign” and taking to rain water harvesting to recharge the ground water as much as possible. All governments, local, federal, and Union and NITI AYOG must encourage cost-effective localised sustainable methods involving traditional knowledge of the well diggers’ community, the Mannu Vaddar/Bhovi, to create water security rather than costly centralized schemes that could impact the sensitive ecological balance.