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Water supply for Bangalore Metrolpolitan Region

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I was at a presentation on the subject of 'Public Policy on Water supply for the Bangalore Metrolpolitan Region' by Sri V Balasubramanian, IAS retd (former Addl Chief Secretary, GoK), under the auspices of the Karnataka Regional chapter of the Indian Institute of Public Administration, last week.

The covering letter of the invitation read as below:


While there is a general awareness and large criticism about the insufficient efforts of government to address the water problem in Bangalore, what is not realized is the magnitude of the impending water calamity in the proverbial Missing the Wood for the Trees syndrome.  Micro-management such as stopping the flying foam-flakes of one Bellandur lake here, recovering the Rajakaluwe from another Mantri Developers' encroachment there and crying hoarse about the inaction of the government about its deafness will not improve the situation one bit.  One swallow does not make a summer. Gangrene cannot be cured by lavender water, Hegel had said.

On 12 January, a 90 minute discussion was held with the Minister for Bangalore Mr.KJ George attended by the Chairman of BWSSB and all concerned officers, besides the Bangalore Environment Trust in the Committee Room of Vidhana Soudha. The outcome was the airing of the helplessness of the government that the Finance Department does not allow raising of any further loans for any projects of GoK.  All the participants were highly impressed with this marvelous explanation and returned home in raptures that the Honourable Minister had spent 90 minutes with them !

I have prepared a paper on the subject at the request of the Azim Premji U and the GoK.  Apart from identifying the various factors affecting the water problem (including the much un-realized extent of water contamination), the paper also gives the bare details of a Comprehensive Project to meet this impending crisis. Unless the citizens and Voluntary Organizations agitate (like White Field Rising or the farmers invoking the effective Right to Rasta-Rokho), TO IMPLEMENT A PLAN OR A PROJECT nothing will happen except evacuation of half the population of Bangalore Metropolitan Area in 10-15 years.

The paper discusses the inevitable increase of population of BBMP from 1 crore in 2015 to 2 crores in BMR in 2030--which is just 14 years from now--and the need to implement a Comprehensive Plan covering (1) Restoration of about 400 lakes, (2) Restoration of 850 kms of Rajakaluwes, (3) Segregation of sewage from entering the lakes, (4) Effective Tertiary Treatment of STPs, (5) Recovery of used water as in Singapore and elsewhere, (6) Basin-wise Rainwater Harvesting, (7) Plugging of water leakage down to 20% from its current 35%, (8) Involving civil society organizations in educating the public and working with government, etc.

I will be grateful if you can find time to (A) Attend the discussions, and also (B) Go through the paper and contribute to the discussions leading to an ACTION PLAN by citizens.

With best regards, Balu

The notes on the presentation are attached.

The take away, as far as I am concerned, is that, while talking of the magnitude of the problem faced by the city, Sri Balu also offered a fairly comprehensive approach to problem solving. Water being most critical for life sustenance, it would be good if all of us joined in the awareness creation effort, and thereafter campaigned for implementation of the solutions proposed.

Quite as Mr Balu put it, the focus today unfortunately is more on building criss-cross fly-overs and under-ground tunnels across the city, rather than on this vital aspect. He gave the examples of Fathehpur Sikri and Bijapur, both of which had to be abandoned for want of water availability, even with being the capital cities of kingdoms of those times. The warning obviously was that Bengaluru too could suffer the same fate if we don't act fast enough.

Mr A Ravindra, IAS retd, former Chief Secretary, who was the chief guest, stated that, of all the solutions, he felt that effecting reduction in distribution losses from the current level of 45% odd to an acceptable level of say 15%, was the low hanging fruit. He added that he had heard that BWSSB was already at it, though he was not quite sure how far it had progressed. Perhaps, he was talking of this tie-up with L&T. Well, indeed that's quite the low hanging fruit alright, provided you can tackle it professionally. However, since government set-ups have serious limitations there, is why Mr Manivannan, as the DC, Mysore, out-sourced the work to JUSCO. Sadly, however, the mafia confederation in the field systematically subverted the effort, and now it's all hanging in the limbo there - check here, for more on that.

At the end of the talk, I got an opportunity to interact with Sri M N Thippeswamy, retd Chief Engineer, BWSSB, whom I asked as to what percentage of the average flow in the Cauvery is used for irrigation, domestic and other purposes, respectively, and if conservation could be effected in irrigation, whether a part of it could be made available for supplementing the domestic supply. His answer was that it was in the approximate ratio of 82, 12, and 8, the last figure being for industrial needs, in the case of Cauvery, and most Indian rivers. As compared to that, he stated that in industrialised countries, like in Europe, the domestic and industrial consumptions were much higher. He reiterated that if conservation could be effected through drip irrigation, as also changes in crop patterns, etc, the quantum saved could be made available for domestic as well as other purposes. So, there's after all some scope for drawing more water from the Cauvery, provided we can convince the Mandya farmers, Amma ( Madam Jayalalitha), as also meet the huge additional costs involved.

That of course does not mean that we continue to consume in the same profligate way we are doing currently.

Muralidhar Rao



amithpallavoor's picture

After a long time, the water

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After a long time, the water levls at TG Halli- Arkvathy have hit 40 feet.

Will the government now do something to revive the river or plead helplessness? comment guidelines

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