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18 july 2019

In the midst of a water crisis, the Indian city of Bengaluru is making efforts to retain water

Ravaged by unchecked technological, real estate and demographic expansion, Bengaluru has fallen significantly behind in managing its water reserves. The Indian Silicon Valley, whose population has tripled in 30 years, will have exhausted its groundwater by 2020.

Having become a technological hub and one of the subcontinent’s most dynamic cities in the space of twenty years, Bengaluru is experiencing an unprecedented water crisis. Not being built on a river, India’s third-largest megalopolis, which had over 260 artificial lakes in 1960, now only counts 80, most of which are ecologically dead.

The responsibility for this falls on the shoulders of the municipal authorities, who were unprepared for the city’s demographic and urban boom. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), which is responsible for water management, can only provide water to around 60% of the city. Its chairman, Tushar Giri Nath, notes with regret that “land for water reservoirs and other infrastructure [is] difficult and expensive to acquire.”

As the underground water is no longer sufficient, the city now pumps water from the Cauvery River located some one hundred kilometers from the city, which is also a source of water-sharing conflict with the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu (to the south). Every day, 1.4 billion liters of water supplies only the city center, i.e. 60% of the population. This forces residents on the periphery to dig unauthorized wells or depend on privately-run tankers. However, the need to drill deeper and deeper has tripled the price per tank over the past fifteen years.

 Yet ecological solutions exist. Since 2009, the BWSSB has promoted rainwater harvesting — thousands of liters fall on the country during monsoon season — and requires integrated rainfall capture systems to be installed in all residential complexes. “But, despite tens of thousands of fines levied, less than 10% of Bangalore's rainwater is harvested,” highlights Ammanaghatta Rudrappa Shivakumar, an expert from the Indian Institute of Science. He blames the lack of incentives for residents to save water: government subsidies on pipes, bottles of water and tanks have lowered the cost of the resource to less than a dollar for 1,000 liters of water.

© Aijaz Rahi/AP/SIPA