While the extent of water losses (from leakages and seepages) ranging from 20 per cent to 50 per cent for major Indian cities, Bangalore occupied the top end of this scale of available “water not accounted for,” said technocrat B Ramaswamy, adviser-consultant to the Karnataka government on PPP issues.
Speaking at the National Seminar on “Indo-US Partnership in Water Sector—The Road Ahead,” organised by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, Ramaswamy, head of the southern region of Feedback Infrastructure Services Private Limited, said water loss in Chennai, to the contrary, is 20 per cent. It is 40 per cent in a mega-city like Mumbai.
Regretting that the “per capita availability” of water in the country as a whole had “degenerated very badly” from 5,000 cubic metres in 1,960 to 1,000 cubic metres now, Ramaswamy said that India would have to seriously contend with a projected 50 per cent water shortage by the year 2030. Stating that unless the water problem is “fixed first”, nothing else would move ahead, he reminded. Karnataka’s demand for water will be huge in the days to come when the Jindals add another three million tonnes per annum capacity steel plant, as planned, at Bellary.
Already, 80 per cent of the usable water was taken away by thermal power plants, he pointed out, sharpening the conflict with agriculturists demand for water.
There was now a proposal in Karnataka to raise the height of the Alamatti dam by 9 metres to help store more water for usage to meet the growing industrial demands, but farmers will also make a claim, he noted.
Referring to reports on the cost of water provided by tankers to innumerable apartments in and around Bangalore having “doubled” this year, Ramaswamy said rain-water harvesting has become a necessity for Bangalore, besides conservation and restoration of its water bodies.
“By de-silting the famous Tungabadhra river alone, 27tmcft of water can be additionally produced,” said Ramaswamy. Apartment complexes should be offered a package to make rain-water harvesting enduring and fruitful, rather than just paying lip-service to the effort, the technocrat said.
Water losses from leakages also need to be mapped and a pan-India initiative was required to replace underground water pipes, which in several cities were more than 100 years old, Ramaswamy added.
Joseph Ravikumar, a specialist with the World Bank, said it was appalling that 73 million Indians still did not have a toilet in their homes, while only 300 of the 5,000-odd cities in India have partial sewerage systems.
On some of the initiatives mounted by major cities like Chennai and Bangalore to augment water availability, Ravikumar said treatment and recycling of waste water had become imperative for industrial purposes, which will ease the pressure on water availability for households and farms.
Though the Karnataka government is pumping water from the Cauvery, some 95 km away from Bangalore, for its drinking water requirements, Ravikumar said with the water having to be pumped up to an elevation of 1,000 metres, “ have reached a point where they cannot (technically) draw more water (from the Cauvery) anymore.” This called for other creative approaches and technologies to solve the issue like in Israel.