Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Delhi's water crisis is set to explode

The way Bangalore should not go....

Delhi's water crisis is set to explode-Developmental Issues-Earth-The Times of India
NEW DELHI: Water is becoming a scarce commodity in the Indian capital that is home to some 16 million people and the crisis is going to worsen in the coming years, leading to more conflicts and pollution, warns a new study.

"The nation's capital is perpetually in the grip of a water crisis, more so in the dry season, when the situation gets particularly worse," says the study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham).

"The water crisis in the Indian capital is set to take a turn for the worse in the long run, leading perhaps to more water-related conflicts," adds the study.

The study also points out that despite the current shortage of water, the city also sees huge wastage of water, estimated at over 40 percent, against 10-20 percent in cities of other developing countries.

"The distribution losses are due to leakages in a network of nearly 9,000-km-long main water supply chains and theft through unauthorised connections," says the chamber's secretary-general D S Rawat.

"The conservative pricing of resource and associated services - along with non-metering of 23 per cent of the connections - also discourages a wise use of the available resource," Rawat points out.

The study estimated the revenue loss to Delhi Jal Board - which sees 56 per cent of its water supplied not being properly billed for - at Rs 19.91 billion (nearly $500 million).

The study says water pollution was another area of concern even though the water in Yamuna reaches the national capital relatively clean after its 395-km descent from the Himalayas.

"As it leaves the city, the river becomes the principal drain for Delhi's waste as residents pour about 950 million gallons of sewage into it each day. Coursing through the capital, the river becomes a noxious black thread."

Let alone drinking, fecal coliform in the Yamuna (a measure of filth) is 20 percent, or 100,000 times the safe limit for even bathing, with raw sewage floating on top and methane gas gurgling on the surface, the study points out.

Following are some of the key findings of the study, concerning New Delhi:

* The capital's current water requirement is 4,275 million litres a day;

* Supplies add up to 3,375 million litres a day;

* The deficit is estimated at 1,103 million litres a day by 2021;

* Forty percent of the capital's water is lost in distribution;

* Twenty-three per cent of water sold is not metered;

* Fifty-six percent of Delhi Jal Board water does not fetch revenue;

* Revenue loss to Delhi Jal Board due to non-billing is Rs.19.91 billion;

* A fourth of Delhi's households rely on groundwater;

* Around 78 per cent of groundwater wells are overexploited;

* Groundwater levels in the capital are dropping by 10 metres each year;

* Some 230 million gallons of water extracted from Yamuna every day;

* Some 950 million gallons of waste poured into Yamuna daily;

* Filth level in Yamuna 100,000 times above safe limit for bathing;

* Bulk of 611 mm of rainwater received in 27 days;

* Per capita consumption of water estimated at 274 litres;

* Domestic sector accounts for 172 litres per capita;

* Commercial sector accounts for 47 litres per capita;

* Floating population and hotels account for 52 litres per capita; and

* Fire protection accounts for 3 litres per capita.

Chennai's groundwater hits new high

Is there a lesson Bangalore can learn?

Chennai's groundwater hits new high-Developmental Issues-Earth-The Times of India
CHENNAI: The groundwater table in the city has gone up by almost 50% from November 2004 to November 2007, thanks to the implementation of the rain water harvesting scheme, according to a study.

Back in 2004, with the monsoon playing truant and groundwater dropping to alarming levels, Chennaiites were staring at the prospect of a serious crisis. It was then that the state government, realising the importance of water conservation, made installation of rain water harvesting (RWH) structures in each household mandatory.

As officials threatened to disconnect water supply to households which did not comply with the order, the public began installing harvesting mechanisms in their houses to collect water from rooftops and open spaces.

"The RWH campaign is a total success with the groundwater level and water quality improving considerably in the metropolis, the first in the country to make such a system mandatory," says an official at the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB), which carried out the study.

While Chennai's water requirement is approximately 1,050 million litre per day (mld), the quantity supplied by CMWSSB is 650 mld. To bridge the gap, about 250 to 300 mld of water is currently being extracted from the ground through borewells.

Thanks to the implementation of rain water harvesting, the city's average groundwater level, which was 6.18 m deep in 2004, has considerably improved to 3.45 m in 2007.

Villivakkam, for instance (see graphic), which recorded a ground water table level of nearly 14 m in 2004, now boasts of a water table level of less than one metre depth. Which means that a borewell has to be sunk only to a depth of one metre now as compared to 14 m three years back. Similarly, water table level in Anna University, Guindy, which was 12 m earlier, has now been replenished and is 5 m.

Due to the impact of RWH, the quality of water has also improved with a remarkable drop in total dissolved solids (TDS), a combined content of all inorganic and organic substances present in a liquid.

According to statistics, the TDS value of water in Chintadripet had dropped from nearly 5,000 part per million (ppm) in 2004 to nearly 300 ppm in 2007. "The salinity of groundwater in coastal areas like Besant Nagar and MRC Nagar, Santhome has also considerably reduced in the last three years," says an official at Metrowater.

Barring slum pockets, about 75% of the nearly 4.35 lakh households in the city have now installed RWH structures. However, the scenario is not all rosy. Experts in water conservation question the method and appropriateness of RWH structures installed in most households.

The city has three different kinds of terrain - coastal sandy formations which require recharge pits or wells sunk to a depth of 5 to 10 ft, clay formations requiring recharge pits with bore wells or recharge wells sunk to a depth of 10 to 30 ft, and hard rock surfaces which require recharge wells to be sunk to a depth of 10 to 15 ft.

Not every household installs mechanisms suitable to the terrain.

However, Metrowater department officials maintain that the existing RWH structures are still helpful in generating a 40% recharge. For new buildings, water connections are being provided only after ensuring that they follow the prescribed format for RWH structures, they added.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Water supply from the bottom up

Citizen Matters, Bangalore: Water supply from the bottom up - 23 July 2008
Rainbow Drive, an apartment complex of 200 houses seems to be all that the name suggests -- tree-lined pathways, moist breezes, and verdant gardens. But no one would believe that this is situated on Sarjapur Road, the ‘waterless colony' as this region of south-eastern Bangalore is being called in private circles.

Rainbow Drive was beginning to go the way of all ‘dry' colonies just four months ago. It does not have a water supply connection from the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), and has been dependent on its rapidly depleting borewells.

According to a resident, Jayawanth Bhardwaj, formerly software engineer with Microsoft, but now involved mostly in community projects, the colony had used up five of its seven original borewells, and was living on its last two, which were decreasing in yield rapidly.

Four months ago, there were just two borewells in use for 200
houses, he explains. Half the colony used one well, while the other
half used the second one. The spectre of water scarcity and reliance on
tankers was beginning to loom large for a few residents, while others
were not even aware of the situation.

Today, though, things
are different. In just three months, the apartment complex has turned
around. Seven public (open) wells have been dug for ground water
recharge, 20 homes in the layout have implemented rain water harvesting
solutions (of various forms) and this includes around 10 private wells
in these homes.


Residents voice their water woes

Residents voice their water woes-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India
Around 300 residents and members of the Federation of Kallahalli Resident Welfare Associations blocked Kensington Main Road, from St John's Road to Old Madras Road, for more than two hours on Monday. They were protesting against erratic water supply in their area.

According to the residents, they are facing the water problem for the past two years. "Earlier, we used to get water twice a day. But in the past two to three months, the situation has become worse. We get water once in two days only. We don't even get 300 litres of water per family," said a resident.

The residents claim they even have to purchase water at times. Despite this, the BWSSB has not provided water tankers, they added. The residents complained to the BWSSB chief engineer, who visited the spot on Monday.

They complained they are forced to purchase water as the supply is stopped by the time they can fill and store enough water just for drinking and cooking.

P Kalidas Reddy, convener of the association, said the residents appealed and wrote to the officials, but to no avail.

"We have written letters to BWSSB chairman and even taken up the matter with the MLA and MP. They have not heeded to our request," he said.

The residents suspect water meant for them is diverted.

BSY'S budget: manna from heaven for city's new face?

Deccan Herald - BSY'S budget: manna from heaven for city's new face?
Rs 100 crore had been allocated to Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), to provide drinking water to the new zones of BBMP. These areas are covered under Greater Bangalore Water Supply Project (GBWASP), funded by Japan Bank of International Co-operation (JBIC). Since the project would be completed by 2012, the government has to make interim arrangements. BWSSB would spend Rs 100 crore on tube wells and local distribution networks. The budget has also allocated Rs 3400 crore under JBIC funding.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Drying Kabini triggers alarm

Deccan Herald - Drying Kabini triggers alarm
A drastic fall in the water level of Kabini reservoir has forced the government to request far-mers in achkat area to sow ragi and maize instead of water intensive crops like paddy...

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday after a meeting with Cauvery Neeravari Nigam officials, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Shobha Karan-dlaje said the current water storage in the Kabini stood at 3.5 tmc ft this year as against 65.83 tmc ft last year.

“We hope there will be rains in days to come. However, as a precautionary measure, we are requesting the farmers to sow ragi and maize which require less water,” Karandlaje said.

She said the inflow had come down to 1,500 cusecs per days compared to the peak 25,000 cusecs. Moreover, an additional 1.5 tmc ft of water was required fill the 34 lakes in the region.

However, sources in the irrigation department said that the low water levels in Kabini is not likely to have any impact on drinking water supply in Bangalore.

The BWSSB draws water for Bangalore from the Shiva anicut in the Cauvery basin from where it is channelled to Netakal reservoir before being piped to T K Halli for water treatment.

“As Shiva anicut is downstream, water dependence is not just from from Kabini but on two other sources: KRS and Hemavathy. Moreover, drinking water always gets priority over irrigation,” the sources added.

The treated water is transferred to distribution reservoir through clear water pumping stations provided at T K Halli, Harohalli and Tataguni.

According to BWSSB officials, the government has allocated 19 tmc ft of Cauvery water to meet Bangalore’s growing needs. However, presently only 12 tmc ft of water is being utilised.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

No water till Sunday in 60 areas of city

No water till Sunday in 60 areas of city-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India
When the BWSSB switched off the major water supply line on Wednesday morning, the taps in around 60 areas went dry. If you have stored some water, then you can breathe easy, for, you will have no water supply till Sunday. The BWSSB has taken up re-alignment work on the major water supply line of Cauvery IV stage line, supplying water from the head works at T K Halli to various parts of the city.

Following the court’s directive, the supply line which cuts across the BMIC road alignment at Channasandra on Uttarahalli-Kengeri road is being shifted as per the approved corridor alignment. The alignment row has been in court for some time and the court had ordered the water board to re-align its supply line. This will require linking of the new lines to the existing ones. Hence, water pumps will be switched off from Wednesday to Saturday.

With the supply line being shut, the city will receive 370 MLD less water as against the normal pumping of 870 MLD.

The BWSSB had earlier sent out intimation letters to the bulk users such as BIA, BEL and industries about the disruption in the water supply. BWSSB officials say it’s not possible to supply 370 MLD water through tankers. Work is going on day and night and authorities hope to complete it well before the deadline.

When it rains, it pours woes

BANGALORE: While the state is on the verge of a drought, Thayamma and other residents of Sampangiramanagar had to contend with a deluge on Tuesday night. The heavy rain that lashed the city could not have been worse for them.

The rain caused sewage lines near houses to clog. The excess water flooded houses in the colony. Though BBMP and BWSSB authorities are clearing the sewage lines, for Thayamma and her neighbours, life has come to a standstill.

They blocked the SR Nagar Main Road on Wednesday morning for the authorities to come and remove the excess water that flooded their homes. Thayamma said: "As the rain continued, the water level increased in front of our house.
By 2 am, it entered the houses and drowned all our belongings. We could not do much to reduce the water level."

They took to streets early in the morning, blocking the traffic on the main road and relented only after authorities arrived at the location around 9 am and assured them of immediate corrective measures.

R Narayanaswamy, another resident whose house was submerged, said the flooding was due to blockage of a sewage point in their locality. By noon, all excess water was removed from the colony but work was still going on to clear the sewage line.

The rain that the city recorded from 8.30 am on Tuesday to 8.30 am on Wednesday — 62.8 mm — affected traffic movement too. Several roads were waterlogged and traffic policemen had a hard time. Bannerghatta Road, Hosur Road and other arterial roads in the city witnessed slow moving traffic. Tilak Nagar cross on Bannerghatta Road, Lavelle Road, Vittal Malya Road and MG Statue area were flooded with water seeping out of manholes, throwing traffic out of gear.

Trees were uprooted at Ashoka Pillar, Maharani's College, BTM Layout, KG Halli, Chamarajpet Royan Circle, Basavanagudi MD Block, Mysore Bank Circle, Coffee Board and Tilak Nagar. The BBMP control room received many complaints from residents about drainage and sewage lines being blocked.

Water shortage tops civic woes list

Water shortage tops civic woes list-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India
KAMALANAGAR: As part of his reaching-out-to-the-public programme, Rajajinagar MLA Narendra Babu on Tuesday met residents of Kamalanagar ward, heard their grievances and promised immediate action.

The meeting at the ward office here was well attended with over 300 to 350 people voicing civic problems that were deftly handled and answered by Babu, along with assurances of quick action. He had with him a battery of officials from BBMP, BMTC, Bescom, traffic, law and order and social welfare departments.

Residents of Kamalanagar, Kamakshipalya, NGO Colony, Anjapura and surrounding areas listed out their grievances. They complained of bad roads, sanitation problems, clogged drains, shortage of drinking water, water-logging, no garbage clearance, lack of ration cards, lack of proper playgrounds and harassment of women. The most common complaint was regarding regular water supply. Rajamma, a resident, said: "There is water supply only in the dead of the night. Do we sleep or collect water? How do we go to work the next day?"

Rajanna echoed her observation: "Water comes only on alternate days. Even when it comes, it is only for an hour or two. Even if we get continuous supply for a fixed period of time, it will be a great relief."

Lakshmi narrated problems regarding garbage and silt. "Sometimes, silt is cleared from the drain and put in front of houses and for days together it is not cleared. It stinks. Mosquitoes gather and make life miserable. Garbage collects for days and there's no one to clear that either."

Babu announced that along with regular water supply, clearance of garbage and drainage silt will get top priority. "There is a 10-member team on work right now. I will deploy additional teams for the clearing work," he told residents.

Many residents complained that they had not been issued ration cards though they were very poor. "I live with two children, pay rent and have a family member who is handicapped. How can we make a living in Bangalore?" one asked. Another chipped in: "Government servants get BPL cards, while we don't. We can't afford to buy rice in the open market. They don't give us rice at the ration shops." Yet another resident complained: "There are weavers in the area who are very poor. They've been here for years but haven't been issued BPL or APL cards."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Commerce Over The Commons

Commerce Over The Commons
he decision to lease 26 lakes in and around
Bangalore to private operators has provoked a
flurry of protests, reports

THIRTY RUPEES to visit the Nagawara
Lake in Bangalore, and no guarantee that you will see a single bird. If
disappointment wells up, wash it back with a glass of something cold at the CafĂ© Coffee Day outlet, the star attraction of the new concrete paving that rims the lake. And, under the shade of a plastic tree that has sprouted nearby, you can pay to let your child play. If even that isn’t enough, a few rupees more can get you a ride on a water scooter or a motorboat. Welcome to Lumbini Gardens, at what once was Nagawara Lake.

For Bangalore’s Lake Development Authority (LDA), this is only the first step in its plans to similarly transform 25 other lakes in and around the city. It has already leased out three — Agara Lake, Hebbal Lake and Venkayanakere Lake — for an initial period of 15 years to private companies such as Biota Natural Systems, East India Hotels (the parent company of the Oberoi group) and ParC. The agreements, signed under
the public-private partnership (PPP) model, require the private entities to undertake desilting operations, diversion of sewage water and other processes required for the maintenance of the lakes. In return, the companies are allowed to set up kiosks, jetties, play areas, gift shops and eateries, and to make arrangements for water sports, boating, sport fishing etc. The LDA also grants
them the right to charge an entry fee.

The move has met with fierce opposition from the city’s environmental and citizens’ groups. Says Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group (ESG), an NGO spearheading the protests, “We have Supreme Court guidelines which unambiguously state that spaces belonging to the public should remain with the public. Bangalore’s lakes clearly fall within the definition of common property, with the public having customary rights of use over them. The leases granted to private companies are then directly in contravention of the SC guidelines.”

ESG has filed a public interest litigation this January, challenging the validity of the leases. Their argument gains ground with a closer look at the LDA itself. Formed in July 2002, the LDA is a registered society and not a government agency, even though it was created following a government order. An autonomous body for conserving natural and man-made lakes in Karnataka, the LDA however has no jurisdiction to grant leases to private operators.

YET ANOTHER issue that protestors have raised is the denial of ordinary people’s rights when public spaces are commercialised. “There is a certain class privilege attached to the idea that only those who can pay can access the lakes,” says Rohan D’Souza, a campaigner with Hasiru Usiru, a citizens’ group involved with the campaign. “For years
before the commercialisation of Hebbal Lake, the local fishing communities fished there under licence from the Fisheries Department. All that stands cancelled now — they are denied access to lakes leased under the PPP model and their rights receive no recognition at all.” At the Nagawara Lake, fishing communities are allowed access to demarcated areas of the lake from 3 to 7 am.

Livelihood fishing is bound to be threatened since commercial activity is bound to destroy the ecology of the lakes. With this, the Karnataka State Forest Department concurs. In a status report filed with the High Court of Karnataka, the forest department has explicitly
recommended that the lakes be declared “nature or bird preserves”. Acknowledging the dependence of fishing communities and others on the lakes, the report argues for all yet-tobe- developed lakes to be preserved as “shining examples of ecologically wise integration of civic interest and biodiversity”. The report also takes a clear stand against commercial activities at such locations, recommending against the introduction of food courts, water sport facilities and other structural innovations, including artificial lighting. It, however, suggests charging a minimal entry fee towards meeting costs of maintenance.

At this point of time, the LDA is far from strapped for cash. In 1998, the state government had applied for and obtained grants from the Norwegian government to restore the city’s lakes. Under this programme, weeds were removed and the lakes were desilted and cleaned at huge costs. It took Rs 2.7 crore to restore Hebbal Lake, the Nagawara Lake cost Rs 5.19 crore while the Venkayanakere Lake was restored at a cost of Rs 2.55 crore. And yet the lake privatisation programme is presented as one that is essential if the lakes are to be managed and maintained.

Ask the CEO of the LDA, CS Vedant, about the organisation’s financial situation and he clarifies, “Under the National Lake Conservation Programme, the project proposals of the
LDA are appraised and funds are granted by the Central and state governments upon approval. So far, the LDA has received Rs 52 crore for the revival and rejuvenation of 14 lakes.” Clearly money is not the reason for the lakes being leased out. Says Vedant, “The LDA does not have adequate staff to manage the lakes. Also, it is
government policy not to create too many permanent jobs, as it would increase its expenditure. Hence, we have to find other means to get things done. The leases are one such way.”

There are problems with this argument, though. The private operators chosen have no expertise in lake management at all. As D’Souza points out, Lumbini Gardens, the leasee of Nagawara Lake, is a real estate group while the East India Hotels group is in the hospitality
industry. Their incompetence in lake conservation is already on display. At Hebbal
Lake, the dredging and removal of vegetation has permanently destroyed the wildlife habitat — a fact that is confirmed by the Forest Department in their June 2008 status report. Officials from Lumbini Gardens were not available for comment, while LDA CEO Vedant unceremoniously called the interview to a halt when questioned on the report.

Apart from inappropriate selection of private operators, there are more questions that remain to be asked. Has the LDA decision to privatise Bangalore’s lakes been taken in coordination with government agencies? Besides the Forest Department’s report condemning the proposal, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has identified the Nagawara
and the Venkayanakere lakes as sources of potable water for the city. To this end, the BWSSB is considering removing food courts from these sites, and putting a stop to boating activities there, so as to prevent pollution.

ESG has filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Karnataka High Court challenging the leasing of the lakes to private operators, which is now being heard. The question of privatising Bangalore’s lakes is only one part of a larger debate about rights to common property resources. In 2002, the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board forcibly acquired land from farmers around the Bellandur Lake in Bangalore to hand
over to Infosys. What was clearly private land was moved into the public resource category in order to be leased out to a private corporation. What really is different in the LDA’s decision to now lease entire lakes to private operators? Not
very much, it would appear. •