Bengaluru, March 22 : Water taps in India's Silicon Valley may soon turn dry if authorities don't revive Bengaluru's water bodies and conserve scarce water resources, ecological experts stressed on Thursday.
"The city is sitting on a ticking time bomb. Considering the rate at which we are consuming water and are exploiting ground water through bore wells, depleting the water levels more rapidly than ever before, we are likely to run out water very soon if we don't act now," Chairman of Bangalore Environment Trust (BET) A.N. Yellappa Reddy told IANS.
Till 1970, the city of pensioners and gardens with salubrious climate through the year had enough water to meet the needs of its denizens from wells in the backyards of every home, borewells and supply from water bodies, including rain-fed lakes, reservoirs, ponds and tanks.
When the city began growing in the 1980s and expanding rapidly from 1990s due to the advent of Information Technology (IT) and other sectors of the economy, the state-run Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) was forced to pump daily water from the Cauvery river, about 130 km southwest of the city, using powerful pumpsets, to meet the increasing demand.
With illegal constructions and encroachments, the city's land infiltration capacity has been tampered with, preventing rain water from being absorbed into the soil, asserted Reddy, the former secretary of the state government's Department of Ecology, Environment and Forests.
"Nearly 85 per cent of Bengaluru's land has been turned impervious and the storm water drains (designed to drain excess rain water from streets) have become sewage water drains due to poor maintenance," the environmentalist lamented.
With the state and central governments being "indifferent" to the bustling city's growing water issues, its natural resources are only disappearing, he said.
Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), in a statement on Wednesday quoting a study by its "Down To Earth" magazine, named Bengaluru among the 10 global cities that are fast approaching "Day Zero", when the city's taps will run out of water.
The analysis comes few months after Cape Town, one of the richest cities in South Africa, caught global attention for its severe water crisis nearing Day Zero, when water ration of 25 litres per day, the minimum required to sustain life, will be supplied through trucks.
Below-average rainfall since 2015 had dried up Cape Town's reservoirs, leading to the unprecedented water crisis.
With Bengaluru's 11-million-strong population expected to double by 2031, and the water consumption going up while the ground water levels are sinking, the city may soon see its own Day Zero, the study assessed.
Due to resource constraints and topographical challenges, the BWSSB has not been able to supply water to one-third of the city, especially the upscale southeast and southwest suburbs which witnessed explosive population growth owing to the concentration of IT firms, including multinationals.
As a result, of the 11-million population, a whopping four million people are forced to depend on borewells, water tankers and shrinking lakes for sourcing water.
In the process, the city's water table went down from 10-12 metres to 76-91 metres in 20 years, while the extraction wells have gone up from 5,000 to 450,000 in a period of 30 years owing to increasing population.
Bengaluru Mayor R. Sampath Raj, however, said the city running of water was just speculation and asserted that there was no shortage of water in the city.
"I think these assessments are based on speculation. While I appreciate the thought for bringing people's attention to the possibility of running out of water and generating awareness, I can assure the people of Bengaluru that the city is not going to run out of water anytime soon," Raj told IANS.
The city's civic body budget for 2018-19 has also laid special focus on reviving the lakes and developing storm water drains, he said.
Minister for Bengaluru Urban Development and Town Planning K.J. George asserted that the city will have no water issues till at least 2030.
"Bengaluru will not face water crisis anytime soon. The situation has improved a lot since 2012, when the city was pumping only 900 million litres per day from the Cauvery," George had earlier said in a Facebook post, downplaying a BBC report that the city may soon run out of water.
"Of the 1,500 million litres per day water required by Greater Bengaluru city, it currently draws about 1,300 million litres per day from Cauvery river, of which over 25 per cent goes waste due to leakage, pilferage and theft."
Even if the city's population doubled to 20 million, the state's projects will ensure water supply till 2031, George had said. "The freshwater supply per person will be around 88 litres per day with a water loss of 25 per cent due to evaporation.
While the city's authorities may have the intent to alleviate a possible water crisis, effective implementation of water-related projects is what is lacking, averred Bangalore Political Action Committee (BPAC) Chief Executive Officer Revathy Ashok.
"There is need for a multi-pronged approach when it comes to water -- implementing rain water harvesting, sewage treatment plants and pushing for lake revival, while simultaneously ensuring water pilferage is checked during distribution," Ashok stressed.
(With inputs from Fakir Balaji. Bhavana Akella can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)