An event report by Arunava Banerjee, one of the participants in the workshop.
“Neeru (water), neeru, neeru,” the background score of Sweta Dandewkar’s documentary Water and a city rang out the introductory tone of the two day Water Workshop, “Watershed movement: Bengaluru’s water problems and solutions,” organised by Co-media Lab at Parisara Bhavan, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) headquarters in Church Street, Bengaluru on Saturday, October 1, 2016.
“The whole idea of today’s session is learning,” Meera K, co-director of Co Media Lab, said in her introductory speech. The session was precisely that with speakers like Rajya Sabha MP Prof MV Rajeev Gowda, S Vishwanath, water expert and advisor to Biome Environmental Trust, Nagesh Aras, civic activist and STP expert, Sridhar Pabbisetty of Namma Bengaluru Foundation, and V Balasubramanian, former additional chief secretary of Karnataka, discussing in detail the water problems Bangalore is being plagued with and solutions that will make Bangalore a sustainable city.
The problems identified during the first half of the workshop were the exploitation of groundwater, the drying up of the Arkavathy, high dependency on Kaveri water and the disappearance and contamination of Bangalore’s lakes, which not too long ago was the primary source of water for Bengalureans.
“A city dies when its lakes die…Till 1974, you were getting 200 MLD water from the Heraghatta tank (Lake), then it went down to less than 20 MLD, and today the Hesaraghatta water is gone,” Balasubramanian said.
A solution to this problem was exemplified by Priya Ramasubban’s documentary on the rejuvenation of the Kaikondarahalli Lake, earlier during the day. It showed how a group of concerned citizens approached authorities concerned to push for rejuvenating the lake; and after a long struggle, the lake has become an eco-diverse water body. However, the problem has not ended and the citizens constantly monitor the lake to keep it treated from toxicity and sewage.
“Bangalore is completely dependent on the Kaveri. You would know that the tribunal had allocated 270 TMCft of water for the state of Karnataka, of which now 19 TMC ft is now allocated for the city. This pitch is for 35 Tmcft,” Vishwanath said, adding that the other problem with Kavery water is the high amount of energy being used. Talking about the 25 Sewerage Treatment Plants (STP), he said, “Presently only 14 STPs are set up. Once all 25 STPs are functional, it will eventually treat about 1,000 MLD of water. We are pumping about 1,400 million litres from the Kaveri and about 1,100 million litre will be (treated/recycled) waste water. This will be the single key resource that Bangalore will have to learn to use wisely in the coming days if it wants to stay sustainable.”
Nagesh Aras talked in detail about the functioning of the STPs. He said how in four sections, waste water can be treated, and using Reverse Osmosis (RO) turned into drinking water. Two case studies were presented during the latter half of the workshop, one of which talked about the Rainbow Drive apartment on Sarjapur Road that is water sustainable using waste water treatment—an example if followed by the rest of the city will lead to a sustainable water resource.
The two panel discussions that took place primarily focused on the way the water distribution system works in Bangalore, the political and societal challenges and the role of government structures and a long term planning for the city and urban resilience.
“Rainwater Harvesting has a great potential to meet a considerable amount of water requirements. Bangalore receives an average rainfall of 900 ML,” KSPCB chairman Lakshman said. “A fundamental issue, where should we get drinking water should be addressed. There is no centralised approach towards providing water. Decentralisation and citizen participation is necessary and we need to see more rain water harvesting units come up across the city,” Gowda said, adding, “There are policies mandating rainwater harvesting, but we don’t see it anywhere, so we need to make this a sort of abhiyan (movement) with citizens participation.”
The workshop revealed that even though water crisis looks severe in Bangalore, and studies point out that the city may die in the next 5-10 years, there is water availability in the city if the right policies are implemented and sustainable water resources utilised.
Primarily the city needs to recycle and reuse its waste water, and secondarily instead of having a single point dependency on the Kaveri, other resources like rain water harvesting needs to be utilised and implemented. If proper sustainable planning is done and implemented for the water distribution system of the city, Bangalore will not face any water shortage in coming years.