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Bengaluru's Silicon Valley struggles with water shortage

The water crisis in Bengaluru has also escalated into a political showdown between the ruling Congress party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), intensifying as the general election approaches.
12:00 AM Mar 20, 2024 IST | SURINDER SINGH OBEROI
bengaluru s silicon valley struggles with water shortage
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New Delhi, Mar 19:  As  Bengaluru grapples with a severe water shortage, its ramifications extend far beyond mere inconvenience, profoundly affecting various facets of daily life. Recent reports have shed light on the multifaceted repercussions of this crisis, revealing its disruptive influence on both industrial operations, agriculture and the routines of residents, particularly those residing in apartment complexes and gated communities.

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In the industrial sector, the scarcity of water has emerged as a weighty impediment, slowing down production at factories across the city. This slowdown not only hampers productivity but also triggers economic repercussions, amplifying concerns about the region's industrial viability amidst such challenges.

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Furthermore, the shortage has compelled tech workers, integral to Bengaluru's renowned IT sector, to adjust in their work routines. Some have been forced to forego office meetings, opting for remote work arrangements to navigate the logistical hurdles posed by the scarcity of water. This shift underscores the ripple effects of the crisis, infusing even the professional landscape of the city.

On the agricultural side, farmers are grabbing water for their crops leading to several infights. In normal times, many of the villages would get water through canals just for a couple of months ahead of their sowing and plantation, but now that has been banned in several villages leading to friction amongst the crop growers who are facing massive challenges.

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In the residential Sector, the impact of the water shortage is perhaps most acutely felt within the residents and communities, where residents are grappling with the need to recalibrate their daily habits in response to the dwindling water supply. This challenge is exacerbated by the prevailing meteorological conditions, with temperatures soaring to unprecedented heights in what was once hailed as one of India's coolest cities.

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In a bid to mitigate the crisis, the residential welfare associations, and social and religious organisations have sprung into action, issuing guidelines aimed at conserving water resources.

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Residents are urged to adopt stringent measures such as limiting car washes to once or twice a week, embracing frugal bathing practices that utilize only half a bucket of water, and implementing half-flush mechanisms in toilets.

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These directives, though seemingly mundane, underscore the collective resolve of communities to confront the crisis head-on and alleviate its impact through concerted conservation efforts. Hotels are most affected. Some of them are buying water in black money. Storage of water has become more important in the city than any other priority.

In a recent report by CNN, climate scientist T.V. Ramachandra from the Centre for Ecological Sciences underlined the longstanding warnings regarding Bengaluru's water crisis. Ramachandra stated, "I have been warning about this for over a decade... It’s a culmination of unplanned urban growth, rapid deforestation and the ongoing climate crisis – and everyone is paying the price."

Bengaluru, once renowned for its expansive network of man-made lakes that sustained its residents, has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past few decades.

The city, also known as Bengaluru, was celebrated for its lush greenery and abundant forests, earning it the moniker "India’s garden city" due to its elevated terrain and favourable climate.

However, since the early 1990s, Bengaluru has witnessed rapid urbanization driven by its emergence as a major tech hub, resulting in exponential population growth.

This surge led to the clearing of forests and encroachment upon its lakes as the city expanded to accommodate its burgeoning population, which now exceeds 1.2 crore.

According to Ramachandra speaking to CNN, the extensive urban development has significantly reduced Bengaluru's capacity to absorb water. He noted, "Today 83% of Bangalore is covered in concrete... There is no vegetation. There is no way that groundwater recharging can happen further to go to the underlying layers. This is a big problem."

While over 75% of the city's water supply is sourced from the Cauvery River, the rapid expansion has strained existing infrastructure. Newer neighbourhoods, lacking adequate water pipelines, rely heavily on groundwater extracted through borewells.

The situation worsened last year due to a weak monsoon, leading to depleted groundwater levels, and exacerbating the water shortage for the city's vast population. People are just praying and waiting for a better monsoon to wriggle out of this water crisis. But it still is months away.

Residents living on the outskirts, numbering around 4 million and primarily dependent on borewells, face particularly dire circumstances. Bengaluru's Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar revealed to the media that approximately 7,000 of the city's 16,000 borewells have run dry, underscoring the urgent need for intervention in these areas.

Government Reveals Alarming Water Crisis: Bengaluru Needs Urgent Solutions

In an announcement, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah disclosed that Bengaluru is grappling with a daily shortage of 500 million litres of water. This revelation marks the first quantification of the city's summer water scarcity, emphasizing the gravity of the situation.

Key Statistics:

Bengaluru requires 2,600 MLD of water, with only 1,450 MLD sourced from the Cauvery and 650 MLD from underground borewells. The Chief Minister highlighted the urgency by convening a review meeting and initiating various measures to address the crisis. To prevent future crises, a technical advisory committee will be established.

Despite ample water in the Cauvery basin until June-end, outer zones are severely affected due to the absence of the Cauvery water supply. Efforts are underway to drill new borewells and rejuvenate existing ones in affected areas, with sufficient funding allocated for these purposes.

Government Action Plan:

Officials have been instructed to enhance control rooms and promptly address water shortage complaints, with officials held accountable for any lapses. Private tankers, including those from Karnataka Milk Federation, will be commandeered to augment the water supply.

Plans are underway to fill four dry lakes with treated water, replicating the successful K.C. Valley project, which aims to improve underground water levels around these lakes.

The water crisis in Bengaluru has also escalated into a political showdown between the ruling Congress party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), intensifying as the general election approaches.

While the BJP has staged multiple protests, laying blame on the government, the Congress has retaliated by accusing the BJP-led federal government of neglecting to offer financial aid to drought-stricken Karnataka.

This alarming situation serves as a poignant "wake-up call," The urgency of addressing the crisis to safeguard the reputation and economic prospects of Bengaluru, is important or else potential ramifications and rethinking for future investments will continue.

Amidst these concerns, a question regarding the city's urban planning needs accountability from current and past administrators, questioning the rationale behind constructing concrete jungles, reducing green belts and no future thinking of water conservation.

It becomes imperative for stakeholders to heed these warnings and undertake concerted efforts to address the underlying issues before irreversible damage occurs.

As residents navigate these restrictions and adapt to a new normal dictated by the imperatives of water conservation, it needs a collaborative effort aimed at safeguarding the city's precious water resources, needs a collective endeavour towards a more resilient and water-secure future or else generations to come will never pardon the present generation for creating water scarcity.

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