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--- Bangalore's Water Supply By H. Kusumakar
On Makar Sakranti (Pongal) Day, the Bangalorean met with two major disappointments. One was the defeat of the home team in the National Football Championship, the other the total stoppage of water supply 1n many areas.
That day, the water supply department of the Bangalore Municipal Corporation was inundated with protests from irate citizens. Having to go without water is not an uncommon experience for a Bangalorean, but the festive occasion turned it into a frustration.
Well over a decade now—and even in the past—Bangalore's cry has been : “More water.” Many an election has been fought on this issue; every Mayor, every corporator, every official seems to have been obsessed with it; the problem has been helplessly mentioned to every dignitary, foreign and Indian, visiting the city; every now and then frantic appeals for assistance have been sent by the Corporation and the Mysore Government to the Government of India; speeches and seminars on the subject have been many and long; several committees have been constituted and schemes for augmenting the water supply prepared and approved— but basically the question has remained unsolved.
Let us listen to the experience of a former Mayor, Mrs. B. Indiramma, the first woman Mayor of Bangalore. She recorded in her “Personal Glimpses” during her mayoralty in 1960: “My troubles began very soon after the novelty (of being elected Mayor) wore off..... Hardly three months had elapsed after my election when, one fine morning, the telephone rang and a voice spoke authoritatively and said that his children had to go to school and food had to be prepared for them, but there was not a drop of water in the tap......Another caller threatened that a no-tax campaign would be launched if water was not supplied at once......”
Another bitter experience of the Mayor
occurred a few days later : “Once, about 9 o'clock in the night, two jutkas stopped in front of my house. One of them contained men and the other vessels. The people shouted that they had a water famine for the past few days and it became so acute that day that they were forced to go to the Mayor to take water from her house. The infuriated crowd could not be pacified until I opened the gate and showed them that the taps were dry even in my own house.”
And every summer Bangalore gets the jitter over this perennial problem. The demand then goes up by about twenty persent, and a normally inadequate water supply worsens. Summer brings in a vast number of visitors to this “salubrious” southern resort and adds to the travails of a waterstarved city. The summer in 1963 in not going to be an exception. One of the consequences of water scarcity has been an inefficient and inadequate drainage and sanitation system, a factor that should cause concern to the public health authorities. During the summer last year, people living in storeyed buildings were told that water would not reach the upper floors. Water was carried in trucks and lorries to localities where public and private taps were dry. Wells were hurriedly sunk.
Bangalore receives 17 million gallons of water daily from the Thippagondanahalli and Hesarghatta reservoirs across the Arkavathi. According to the 1961 census, Bangalore's population totals 12.5 lakhs and the per capita consumption is estimated at about 13 gallons per day. The daily per capita consumption in other big cities in India ranges between 30 and 70 gallons.
Bangalore has an inviting climate, being 3,100 feet above sea level. A number of important industries, including the Stateowned Hindustan Aircraft, Hindustcn
Machine Tools, Bharat Electronics and Indian Telephone Industries, are located here. The city is also studded with a large number of defence establishments. About two hundred small-scale industries are to be found within a radius of seven miles of the city. Fortunately, water-consuming industries are relatively few, but the demand for water keeps growing owing to the additional labour population that the industries are bringing.
The rate of population growth has been phenomenal since the last War. The formation of the enlarged State of Mysore, with Bangalore continuing as its capital, markedly added to this trend.
Bangalore's first protected water supply seheme came into being with the inauguration in 1894 of the Hesarghatta reservoir to cater to a population of two and a half lakhs at 124 gallons per head per day. This became inadequate from 1919 onward. And in 1926 the reservoir went dry for a year. An expert committee headed by the late Dr,
M. Visvesvaraya recommended the starting of the Thippagondanahalli reservoir with a capacity, to supply six million gallons per day. This supply fell short of the demand even from the day (March 23, 1933) of the commissioning of the project as the population had by then exceeded the figure of three lakhs. Improvements undertaken subsequently stepped up the supply to about eleven million gallons from Thippagondanahalli and to 1.3 million gallons from Hesarghatta in 1951. But, by then, the population had grown to more than five lakhs. So, it has been one long story of , the demand always outstripping the supply. Since 1951, the water supply has increased by about five million gallons per day while the population has grown by seven and a half lakhs.
The rainfall in the catchment area of the Thippagondanahalli reservoir varies between seventeen and forty inces. From a study of the rainfall records maintained from 1936, it is observed that there is good rainfall every third year. Purified and filtered, water from this reservoir is pumped to Bangalore,
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22 miles away. And the city is divided into two zones for the purpose of distribution. Water to low-lying areas in supplied by gravity while it is pumped to elevated localities. The topography of Bangalore makes for considerable variation in levels not only in different localities but also in the same locality and since the distribution system largely operates on the principle of gravity, instances are available of water being easily had at one end of a locality and not at the other.
The headworks at Thippagondanahalli are owned and controlled by the Mysore Government while the distribution is handled by the Bangalore Municipal Corporation. There are two opinions as to whether this dual system has worked to the advantage of the citizens. Many a time when the Thippagondanahalli plant has slowed down or stalled owing to power failure, the municipal authorities in charge of distribution o to be in a helpless position. It has been estimated that as a result of current shutdown for about fifty-two hours in 1961-62 there was a total loss of 39,315,000 gallons of water. The present arrangement is that the municipality purchases water from the headworks manned by the Government at 65 nP. per 1,000 gallons and distributes it to the citizens at a nominal cost levied through the water cess. As a result, the Corporation finds itself in deficit to the extent of about Rs. 25 lakhs per annum.
Bangalore has earned the reputation of being a “garden city” and the Corporation maintains about two hundred parks and gardens, many of them with water fountains. This is apart from the huge Lalbag gardens and Cubbon Park, looked after by the Government. While gardens are a necessary part of the Bangalore's landscape, it may be possible to maintain them by water derived from bore wells, thus relieving the pressure on supply for more essential pur: poses. Private garden keepers may also find it profitable to depend on bore wells rather than on the capricious municipal water supply system.
Undoubtedly, there is plenty of leakage and consequent waste of water at present.
The municipal staff incharge of the water supply system, numbering about 300, is obviously inadequate to supervise the supply position in a city spreading over 27 square miles. Sometimes, leakage has come to the notice of the authorities days after it has occurred.
“Equitable” distribution of water has remained an ideal. Instances of pressure being brought upon the authorities to permit the flow of water in certain localities at the expenses of others are not rare. Sometimes the same objective is achieved by gratification. The fight for water is so keen that a corporater will not mind what happens in the next ward if his own ward is to É benefitted and towards that end he will exert his influence and power.
Lack of resources—and foresight—has been the main cause of the defeat of many a well-intentioned, heroic plan. A new scheme for drawing 25 million gallons per day from Thippagondanahalli, consisting of additional purification works and laying of a 36-inch triplicate main, at a cost of Rs. 225 lakhs, and another project to increase the supply from Hesarghatta to three million gallons per day are under execution. When completed, these will provide a per capita consumption of eighteeen gallons a day, still far, far behind the per capita consumption in other major cities. The Banglorean fondly hopes that the national emergency will not slow down the implementation of even these modest plans.
An awakened public opinion has come to realise that the water problem of Bangalore can never be solved unless it is tackled in a basic way. That's why all eyes are now turned on the Rs. 13-crore Cauvery scheme which has been prepared by a special engineering unit. The scheme takes a longrange view of the needs of Bangalore and for the first time attempts an assessment of the future requirements scientifically. It aims at making available to Bangalore sixty million gallons per day—as against the present supply of seventeen million gallons—taking note of fact that at the present rate of growth,
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the city's population will increase to twenty lakhs in 1971. This should provide a per capita consumption of thirty gallons per day. After a great deal of public debate on various alternative plans, the Mysore Government has approved the Cauvery scheme.
The primary impediment in the immediate implementation of the Cauvery shoeme is finance. The Mysore Government is not in a position to take it up “in view of its various other commitments.” There is no question of the Municipal Corporation undertaking the task on account of its own slender resources. The Union Government has, therefore, been approached by the State Government for assistance. There is as yet no indication that the Union Government has positively responded to this approach.
From the civic point of view, it is clear that any delay in carrying out the Cauvery scheme will result in nothing short of a crisis. From the point of view of public health facillties are bound to worsen with the growing population.
The Government of India, Mr. M. S. Thacker, member of the Planning Commission, said in Bangalore, on July 6, has sought the assistance of the World Bank to implement the Rs. 23-crores integrated water supply scheme for Bangalore. The scheme has been drawn up to bring water from the Cauvery near Shivasamundaram Falls, about 50 miles from Bangalore.
The water supply part of the scheme will cost Rs. 13 crores, the distribution scheme ls estimated to cost Rs. 4 crores and the drainage scheme Rs. 6 crores. When the State Government asked the Union Government for a loan and subsidy the latter said the scheme should be implemented as an integrated project along with a comprehensive scheme of distribution and drainage.
Already preliminary discussions with the International Development Association representatives have been held and technical exi. are expected to examine the project
efore finalising the loan arrangement. Mean
while global tenders are being invited for several aspects of the work.