BENGALURU: A key reason for the flooding and waterlogging that wreaked havoc on the streets of Bengaluru last week, is the total disregard for rainwater harvesting laws, and the fact that water comes cheap. This is the view expressed by Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) officials and a water management expert. BWSSB made rain water harvesting (RWH) compulsory through the Rain Water Harvesting Act, as a measure to save water for non-potable use, and also manage excess rain. As per a gazette notification in February 2016, all new buildings on 30x40 sqft and bigger sites, and old buildings on 40x60 sqft and bigger sites, need to install RWH units to store rainwater, or pay a fine. It also mandates storing the water in rooftop tanks or sumps, and connecting it through pipelines for washing and flushing purposes.
BWSSB Chairman N Jayaram told TNIE, “The structures are in place but the stored water is neither being used in homes nor to recharge the groundwater table. Instead, it is let into the BWSSB’s sewage network, choking and flooding the system. This compounded the problems caused by rain last week.” A penalty is levied for non-installation of the RWH unit -- 50% of water bill for residential units, and 100% for commercial establishments -- but people pay the penalty and continue to violate norms, Jayaram said.
A R Shivakumar, scientist and water management expert, feels the price of water is too cheap, encouraging people to waste the resource. “A kilolitre of Cauvery water is charged Rs 7-8 by the Water Board. That’s 1,000 Bisleri bottles for Rs 8. Why will anyone use rainwater?” he asked. “The penalty levied is also a minor amount. Only 1.25 lakh households have installed RWH units,” he added.
Stringent checks must happen, he added. “Meter readers need to check a fixed number of houses every month, and usage of rainwater,” Shivakumar said. The construction of basements, particularly in low-lying areas, leads to accumulation of rainwater, and more havoc, Shivakumar said, calling for a ban on basement construction.