Tag Archives: Kaveri

The precious pitter-patter

rainboyWe are sensitive about sharing a river. We gregariously welcome home water-tankers. We are the lifestyle-conscious Bangaloreans, who understand the water problem of this ever-expanding city like never before. But are we being tunnel-visioned in meeting our immediate water requirements and not looking at the dire dry future?

Here’s a fact. The average water consumption of a Bangalorean per day is 140 litres. The overall supply of water from the Cauvery as well as ground water sources to the city is at 1023 million litres/day (MLD). The total demand for water in Bangalore is 1342 MLD. That means 319 MLD less than the requirement or over 22 lakh people without their average quota of water.

The sudden realization is that you are one among the two million and that’s not a small number to get out of. So, how do we tackle this?

Here’s another fact. Despite a regulation from the governing authorities to set-up rainwater harvesting systems, many Bangaloreans are still ignorant about it.

We may not have abundant ground-water, but we have good god-sent monsoons. Let’s collect the rain. It’s a simple solution to a serious problem. Just like the lesson we taught the kids to put a bucket under a leaking tap; a lesson to save water and to replenish it. The rainwater harvesting system is a one-time set-up that may cost around Rs.40K for a 60X40 site/house. On a rainy day, this would accumulate 54K litres! You can save a part of this and let the rest to percolate and replenish the ground-water. This, against the cost of water-tankers at Rs.3000 for a month, is very economical. Plus, it consumes no electricity. What’s more? A water-sustained future for you and the city.

Rain rain, come again. People here are in vain.

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Whatever happened to the Cauvery riots?

Wasn’t it just a storm in the teacup? Do we even remember the riots and the thousands who thronged Bangalore on the Cauvery issue? 3 days after the mass protests, the river waters reached a level of 110 feet against the capacity level of 124 feet. Either the river heard of the challenges that people were creating or Cauvery just got its regular rainfall in September. The state government will in any case now be forced to issue regular instructions for releasing water the moment it crosses 120 feet for it cannot hold anymore.

Is this a question of shallow politics, and of a few political leaders gaining mileage in constituencies where they need to be battling it out in the coming year? What are the real issues that need to be tackled?

The fact that this dam was built in 1920 to address cultivation water and irrigation water challenges is almost entirely forgotten. Today Cauvery offers up to about 300 million liters a day for Bangalore City. But still accounts for less than 10 per cent of the Cauvery’s primary purpose of irrigating farmlands in the districts of Mysore, Mandya, and neighborhood and of course releasing waters for farmlands downstream in Tamil Nadu.

The issue of water for Bangalore can be addressed differently. In the 1970s, planners in their innocence and drawing from the linear knowledge of the West, came up with these solutions that meant exploiting long-distance sources of water. It seemed the easiest thing to do.

The Cauvery issue is clearly not about water to another state. It is about skirting the real challenge of long-term pragmatic planning, which politicians are either not capable of, or do not want to address, or they seek justification in not having the capital resources needed to build the natural ecosystem of Coorg and the Wynaud region in order that the health of the Cauvery watershed is restored and healed, with a process of reforestation that will take years but will restore the vast swathe of skin of earth in the entire region, now-fragile mountain ecosystem that is the source of the river.

There will then be the question of who spent how much of such money, and bickering upon how much should Tamil Nadu bear as cost in order to enrich the forest ecosystem of Coorg. Are we willing to analyse how much of the degradation of lands in Coorg has been thanks to tourism—the tiny district of Coorg received more tourists last year than all of Kerala, it was reported last year. There were massive protests from landowners in Coorg when efforts were on some months ago to get the western ghats declared as a Heritage Zone. For that would have meant a fall in land costs and less economic opportunity for the minority rich. Coffee prices have remained stagnant, fertilizer input costs have risen, and has led to planters wanting no longer to continue to farm coffee and other plantation crops.

Some day, when the government as well as people have the vision and fortitude needed for a complete to enrich the Coorg ecosystem and its depleting watershed, is when there will be the balance restored – with positive yields, and more water to slake Bangalore’s thirst, and water Tamilnadu’s crops. Even with the best of intentions and the most earnest of efforts starting right now, this will take 8 to 10 years that such natural processes for improving water catchment is achieved.

 

Bangalore will also have to work on a plan that is easy to implement: demand side management that will drop the quantum of water by every one of us to as little as 50 or 30 per cent of the current demand of 1000 million liters. Will the government have the courage to introduce legislation to ensure that there is 100 percent reuse of sewage treatment plants water, of rainwater harvesting, of reinstalling a new generation of water fixtures that save up to 70 per cent?

 

Politicians, the media, and people simply are not willing to wake up to these very simple, doable realities. We can only shrug and hope that the crises that will befall us will be serious enough to have these people galvanize themselves into action. And that will mean you and I, all households and offices and hospitals and hotels. It will mean a government that is led by value-based governance objectives, and not by some populist acts that will win some more votes.

 

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