Monday, December 27, 2004

City planners `miss' management of water

City planners `miss' management of water

The Hindu

BANGALORE, DEC. 25. Twenty years from now, you may live in a futuristic home, a building which adjusts the air conditioning, keeps the food warm and even switches the lights on, all to time with your arrival.

But will the taps with automatic leak detection in your home have running water in them?

Advocates of sustainable development are now raising that question because they believe the city's unbridled growth does not take into account issues such as availability and access to clean water.

"The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) only looks at schemes to bring more and more Cauvery water to the city.

"It is not concerned with matters such as replenishing the groundwater, for instance," the critics point out.

The board is now negotiating with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation for Rs. 3,400 crores to pump an extra 540 million litres a day (MLD) to Bangalore. The city now gets 860 to 870 MLD.

But the board has no authority to prevent drilling of new borewells here.

Nor is it directly involved in framing a new comprehensive development plan (CDP) for the city. That work, being done by a consortium of French companies comprising SCE, Apur, Iauris and Grouphuit, is at an advanced stage.

Preliminary reports have been submitted to the State Government and the Union Urban Development Department.

According to sources, water supply, the access and availability of which is a component of the CDP, will be based heavily on a 25-year master plan the water board brought out two years ago with funds from the Australian Aid Agency (AusAID).

So, they say, there is no need to have detailed interaction with the water board.

Officials within the water board are worried. "We may even have to re-examine the master plan," they admit.

Worldwide, nongovernmental organisations and concerned citizens have been urging city administrators to wake up to the dangers of water shortage. In fact, they believe that private companies and industries too must get into the act.

A rainwater-harvesting expert here says companies need to budget for water. "They pay Rs. 60 a kilolitre, the highest tariff in the country."

The recent trend of maintaining immaculate lawns has had costly consequences. If the turf is Mexican Grass, for instance, a 200 sq. m. patch will guzzle 150-200 litres a day, just to remain green.

Sources depleting

"Besides, most companies hire private water tankers that deplete local water sources," he says.

A company he has advised now wants to grow "ragi" on its lawns. "The company has set aside 29 acres (11.6 HA) for this," he says. The city needs a water management authority that will have overall charge of all water sources in the city; piped water, lakes, groundwater and so on.

"It is too fragmented now," he says.


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