BENGALURU: While the whole world is focused on Cape Town’s struggle with water, there is a similar problem on its way to snowball into a full-fledged crisis in our own Bengaluru. While water shortage is a perennial problem, experts say the situation is rapidly deteriorating and will soon gain critical mass leading to the city being deprived of the precious life source as well.In a study by Indian Institute of Science, experts claimed that 94% of the city’s landscape will consist of concrete by 2020. “Four decades back, only 7% of Bengaluru was concrete and 69% had vegetation. Now more than 78% has concrete cover, while vegetation is less than 7%. This also means we have lost 88% vegetation, 79% water bodies. In the next two years, the percentage of concrete will reach 94% which is an alarming figure,” said Professor TV Ramachandra from the Centre for Ecological Sciences at IISc.
The scale of urbanisation has led to water levels reaching rock bottom and with no provisions for water storage, urbanisation will result in the city going down the same path as Cape Town, he said.
The groundwater depth in the city has reached 1,800 feet and below in many areas where people largely depend on groundwater. As of now, 40 per cent of city is dependent on private water tankers which sell groundwater and the remaining 60 per cent depends on Cauvery. But water levels at Cauvery are reducing constantly. Soon, the city will become dependent more on tankers than river water which is not a good thing considering the notorious water tanker mafia that operates in the city, experts say.
“With more borewells drilled, we have reached heavy metal layers that have copper, chromium, sodium, and consuming this will affect kidneys. Earlier, one in lakh people had kidney ailments; now it is one in 5,000. state government should get dialysis bhagya,’’ he said.He said 193 water bodies had been contaminated with sewage water and industrial effluents spoiling the once-pristine waters. Environmentalist A N Yellappa Reddy seconded this opinion, saying that in Bengaluru, at places like Malleswaram and Basavanagudi, water was available at just five feet, but now it has reached 1,000 feet and below. “Bengaluru is getting good rainfall, on an average it has capacity to get water of more than 20 TMC, but not a drop of water is stored. The trees act as mini- reservoir, the roots can hold water. But with trees making way for road widening and other projects, rain water is going to waste,” he said.
“In every city, water carrying capacity is determined by its valleys and drains. In Bengaluru, with rapid growth in real estate, drains are encroached and blocked. Even if it rains, water cannot flow and recharge the groundwater reserves. Also, with many development works, steel and iron is used. This absorbs heat and evapourates moisture content. The soil below has become dry,’’ he said.
Former irrigation secretary and water expert Captain Raja Rao too opined the same. “Bengaluru does not have any other means for drinking and usable water other than Cauvery river water.Though there are reports that say we can draw water from Sharavathi river and also ocean water, that’s not feasible. We have truly reached a dead end! There is an urgent need to desilt major lakes of the city, regain its glory including Nagawara, Hebbal, Bellandur and Byramanagala lakes. Even people should understand that we do not have any water source other than Cauvery and use less water,’’ he added.