Sunday, February 21, 2010

Indiscriminate drilling => depleted water reserves!

Tanker water all the way - Bangalore - City - The Times of India

The Times has done well by publishing this piece and that too with the right tone of alarm and paranoia.

This, however, merely confirms my worst fears. With so many huge apartments coming up, indiscriminate drilling of borewells is being resorted to. With the bulk of the tech industries disproportionately located in the outer ring road area, the number of residents in that area has gone up significantly too. Despite the fact that the residents here are more educated on an average than the rest of the town, there are not many measures being taken. The residents are remonstrating helplessly. However, if you travel along these roads, you will definitely be hit by the sheer size of the ads for up and coming apartments. People will always think - "Yeah, this happens - but it can't happen to me". Would-be buyers of apartments in this area better beware.

If the industries had been spread across town, the population would have been more evenly spread across the city leading to lower pressure on the infrastructure and environment. But looks like nobody paid attention to this simple fact when they set up SEZs.

Since I work (and thankfully don't live) in this area, I can understand the plight of these complexes pretty well. Some of my friends and colleagues live in these. While I understand that people living in this area are right now worried about basic necessities, I am more worried about the water table. The tanker industry has no qualms about things such as water tables - they want money. The quote below from the article is quite alarming.

"How can the authorities give clearance to these huge apartments without any surety of water supply? BDA had approved the construction of this apartment on the basis of assurance from BWSSB. We purchased the apartment in 2003. BWSSB had assured to give water in 2004. Till date there is no water. We are on a rocky terrain and so cannot access borewell water. All we can do is buy tanker water. We need 70 to 80 tankers every day to sustain these 550 apartments. We know that the sources of the tanker water might not be reliable. But what do we do?," questions Raj Ramchandani, management committee member, Springfields apartments near Outer Ring Road.
Another astounding figure - 10 to 12 lakh litres of water used per day!! And that too for one complex of around 1300 apartments! Assume even if there are twenty such complexes and that tankers supply water to each of these! The water table is getting depleted at an alarming rate and I am sure the tanker owners don't care about simple things such as recharging the water table.

In spite of all this, people make a beeline to live in this area. There are a few solutions possible here - I am thinking aloud here and haven't thought through each of these completely.
1. Ensure via an industry-government initiative that their employees are spread across the city. Creating more satellite offices will help reduce traffic congestion and population density. It is not easy but - at least start now.
2. Suspend construction of newer apartment complexes in the area till the situation stabilizes. Let people living here get access to BWSSB water. Others can do so later. (Of course, this will be difficult to do as there will be a lot of financial interest to keep it going)
3. Discipline the tanker business - ensure they have some limits to water pumping from a specific area. Without regulation here, we will be doomed.
4. Remind people that spending more money is not a substitute to saving water. People will have to change lifestyles and use water more sparingly. Apartment complexes are pretty close knit and they can have better self-regulation. Nothing works better than self-regulation.

On a positive note, more and more people have come to understand words like rainwater harvesting and water conservation. However, there should be more communication, nay propaganda from the government in this regard. Role models for water conservation should be highlighted and not in some remote corner of an obscure publication - but in mainstream publications and mass media. This can be a financially rewarding career for people who are sufficiently skilled. Once water conservation becomes integrated with our personal life-styles, we can hope for the better.

But whatever is going on - is it too little and worse, too late?

1 comment:

parijata said...

A very thought-provoking post.

But have you thought how BWSSB can supply water to all these new apartment complexes? Cauvery cannot quench the thirst (and greed?) of so many people. Finally, BWSSB will also have to resort to attacking the water table. I do not know if it already does that.

Grey-water harvesting should be made mandatory. It takes a lot of effort but it is the only way.