Bengaluru’s Water Crisis

Bengaluru’s Water Crisis

Source: IE

Relevance: GS 3: Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Prelims: Cauvery River, National Water Mission, Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY), Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) 

Mains: 

Q. How and to what extent would micro-irrigation help in solving India’s water crisis? (UPSC 2021)

Q. What is water stress? How and why does it differ regionally in India? (UPSC 2019)

Why in News: Bengaluru, the third-largest city in India by population, is currently experiencing its most significant drinking water shortage in its nearly 500-year existence. More than 30 neighborhoods are receiving water on alternate days in a rotational manner, raising concerns about the possibility of a ‘Day Zero’ situation similar to that witnessed in Cape Town in 2018.

Day Zero refers to the anticipated day when the municipal water supply for a major city is projected to be depleted or run out completely.Water Shortage: Water crisis: Is Bengaluru heading for Day Zero? | Bengaluru  News - Times of India

The issue

Historical Context:

  • Bengaluru was historically renowned as the “the necklace of lakes.”
  • Notable lakes in Bengaluru included Dharmambudhi Lake, Shoolay Lake, Akkithimanhalli Lake, Sampangi Lake, Bellandur Lake, Hebbal Lake, Madiwala Lake, Ulsoor Lake, Lalbagh Lake, Agara Lake, among others.

River Systems:

  • Significant rivers in Bengaluru encompassed Vrishabhavathi, Arkavathi, Dakshina Pinakini, Chinnar, Suvarnamukhi, Cauvery, and Netravathi rivers.

Current Challenge

  • Presently, Bengaluru is grappling with a severe water scarcity crisis.Karnataka: Two months on, panel to probe drinking water scam not set up |  Bengaluru News - Times of India

Reasons Behind Bengaluru’s Severe Water Scarcity:

Reduced Rainfall and Empty Water Reservoirs:

  • Insufficient rainfall in recent monsoons has notably affected the Cauvery River, a vital water source for Bengaluru.
  • Karnataka experienced a 38% deficit in north-east monsoon showers from October to December, along with a 25% deficit in southwest monsoon rain from June to September.
  • Water levels in key Cauvery Basin reservoirs like Harangi, Hemavathi, and Kabini stand at 39% of their total capacity as of 2024.

Depletion of Groundwater Sources:

  • Bengaluru’s rapid urbanization has led to the loss of natural landscapes that previously absorbed rainwater, reducing groundwater recharge.
  • Excessive extraction and declining rainfall have caused groundwater levels to plummet, resulting in the drying up of many borewells.

Inadequate Infrastructure:

  • Bengaluru’s infrastructure, including water supply systems and sewage networks, has not kept pace with its population growth.
  • The completion of Phase-5 of the Cauvery project, slated to provide drinking water to 12 lakh people, is expected by May 2024.

Climate Change:

  • Changing weather patterns due to climate change, such as erratic rainfall and prolonged droughts, have further diminished water availability in Bengaluru’s reservoirs.
  • The Indian Meteorological Department attributes the region’s poor rainfall to the El Niño phenomenon.

Pollution of Water Bodies:

  • Industrial discharge, untreated sewage, and solid waste dumping have contaminated water sources, making them unsuitable for consumption.
  • Approximately 85% of Bengaluru’s water bodies are polluted by industrial effluents, sewage, and solid waste dumping.

Groundwater Crisis in India

The groundwater crisis in India is a severe and worsening situation. Here’s a snapshot of the current state:Invisible water, visible crisis - Vikalp Sangam

  • Depletion: India is the world’s largest user of groundwater, and it’s being withdrawn much faster than it’s replenished. Studies suggest 60% of districts will reach critical levels within two decades [SIWI].
  • Tipping Points: Some areas, particularly in the Indo-Gangetic basin, have already passed a point of no return where water tables may not recover [UN]. The northwestern region is predicted to face critical shortages by 2025 [UN].
  • Agriculture Reliance: Nearly 90% of groundwater goes towards irrigation, impacting farmers heavily. Many have to drill deeper for water, while some are forced to abandon their land and migrate to cities [SIWI].

Water Crisis in India: Factors Contributing to Scarcity

Uneven Rainfall Distribution

  • Majority of rainfall occurs within a short span of 3-4 months.
  • Regional disparities exist, with some areas experiencing excessive rainfall while others face scarcity.

Disparity in River Basins

  • Varied water flow within different river basins.
  • Surplus in Ganga-Brahmaputra basin contrasts with deficits in seasonal rivers of the Indian peninsular regions.

Inadequate Rainfall

  • India Meteorological Department data reveals below-normal South-West monsoon in 42% of districts during June-August 2023.

Groundwater Overuse

  • Farmers, aided by electricity subsidies, extensively pump groundwater.
  • Stockholm International Water Institute reports a drop of up to 4 meters in water table levels in certain regions.India's Groundwater Governance | Current Affairs

Water Pollution

  • Central Pollution Control Board findings show pollution in 311 stretches of 279 rivers across 30 States & Union Territories out of 603 rivers assessed.

Impact of Climate Change

  • Alterations in rainfall patterns and increased drought frequency exacerbate water scarcity.
  • Rise in occurrences of El Nino episodes compounds the issue.

Agricultural Policies and Practices

  • Subsidies for fertilizers and electricity, coupled with price support for water-intensive crops.
  • Widespread employment of flood irrigation practices contributes to water stress.

Key Government Schemes To Tackle The Groundwater Crisis in India

Here are some of the key government schemes to tackle the groundwater crisis in India:

Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY): 

Launched in 2020, this scheme is the world’s largest groundwater management program. It aims to promote community participation in groundwater management through a combination of technical interventions and institutional reforms. The focus areas are:

  • Demand-side interventions: Promoting water conservation practices like micro-irrigation, rainwater harvesting, and crop diversification.
  • Supply-side interventions: Recharge of aquifers through artificial recharge structures and watershed development.
  • Capacity building: Empowering local communities for sustainable groundwater management.

Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA): 

This time-bound mission launched in 2019 focuses on water conservation and water resource management at the village level. 

  • It aims to improve water availability in water-stressed areas through rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional water bodies, and watershed development. 

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS): 

This scheme provides funds for rural development projects, including those related to water conservation. 

  • MGNREGS has been instrumental in creating water harvesting structures, renovating canals, and desilting ponds, all of which help to replenish groundwater. 

Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM): 

This flagship mission aims to provide safe and adequate drinking water to every rural household by 2024. 

  • By providing piped water supply, JJM can help to reduce dependence on groundwater for drinking purposes, thereby helping to conserve groundwater resources. 

National Water Mission (NWM): 

Launched in 2011, the National Water Mission focuses on a holistic and integrated approach to water resource management. 

  • It aims to conserve water, improve water use efficiency, and ensure equitable water distribution.

Way Forward

  • Rainwater Harvesting (RWH): A vision document, ‘Mattondu Cauvery,’ proposes harvesting 10% of rainwater in Bangalore Metropolitan Region to double water supply.
  • Building Code Modifications for Permeable Spaces: Simple adjustments in building codes can enhance permeability of open spaces, facilitating groundwater recharge.
  • Innovative Water Management Measures: The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) suggests innovative strategies in the document “Blueprint for the Future”.
  • Creation of Water Future Hub: Introducing a forum connecting local companies with experts to foster collaboration on water-related challenges and innovations.
  • Establishment of Water Centre: A dedicated center aimed at promoting water conservation, rainwater harvesting, and water reuse among the public.
  • People-Centered Water Governance: Shifting towards human-centric approaches in water governance to ensure greater public understanding and involvement in water planning.
  • Local Watershed Management: Identifying local watersheds, demarcating boundaries, and developing water balance plans for more effective utilization of local water resources.
  • Utilization of Treated Water: Given Bengaluru’s water scarcity, systematic use of treated water for various purposes is essential to reduce demand for fresh water.
  • Mandating dual piping in new constructions to ensure treated water is utilized for non-potable purposes.
  • Lake Rejuvenation: Vital for enhancing water seepage and replenishing groundwater tables, thus improving overall water availability.

 

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