While the above numbers spell despair, Bengaluru’s water story wasn’t always like this. Kempe Gowda, founder of modern Bangalore built several tanks and lakes in the 15th century to ensure that the water needs of people were fulfilled. As a result, the city enjoyed even distribution of water and high groundwater levels.
However, things began to take a turn as Bengaluru’s population began growing and its wetlands deteriorating.
Once called the city of lakes, Bengaluru is now on the verge of losing this title - considering the condition of its wetlands, or what’s left of them.
Bengaluru currently requires an average of 1125 Million Litres of water per Day to meet its people’s water demands. However, the city can only supply 900 MLD.
If groundwater continues to be consumed at the current rate, there will be such a major crisis in Bengaluru by 2025 that people may have to be evacuated.
With time, the city’s wetland areas have been transformed into residential and commercial buildings, educational institutes, bus stands and stadiums. Some wetlands are even being used as dumping grounds for domestic and industrial wastes or as open sewage drains .
With the wetlands in such a state, groundwater levels have inevitably been impacted.
The water table in Bengaluru has fallen down by 272m over a period of 20 years!
The reason is encroachment. Most lakes have been encroached upon in the city for commercial activities.
Moreover, the quality of water is deteriorating due to the mixing of sewerage through unlined open drains, leakage from cesspits and septic tanks, and contamination from industrial wastes. Inflow channels to the wetlands too are choked, drying up the water bodies.
In April 2015, the Varthur Lake started to sprout white froth that was at least five feet high.
This froth, seen floating on the surface of the water, eventually spilt onto the neighbouring roads, causing a stir among people.
What was this white froth after all?
Environmentalists attributed this strange phenomenon to the unchecked flow of washing machine detergents and toilet cleaners into the lake. According to them, the aquatic life in the lake is endangered as a result of this.
In another freak accident, Yamlur Lake, one of Bengaluru’s most polluted lakes, caught fire!
This was because inflammable toxic materials had been flowing into the lake from surrounding industries.
From 0.78 million in 1951, Bengaluru’s population has gone up to 11.5 million in 2016.
Bengaluru’s population is growing at a steady rate. Its wetlands, however, are not.
This means that in a few years, the city will be exerting even more pressure on its finite and (already) over-exploited resources - pushing itself into a much severe water crisis.
The city and its people need to take conscious measures in order to ensure that Bengaluru does not run out of water.
“If everyone practices rainwater harvesting in Bengaluru, in the next 25 years, the city can sustain itself with its available water sources,” says A R Shivakumar, also known as the ‘Rain Man’ of Bengaluru.
AR Shivakumar is a pioneer in water harvesting techniques. And he likes to teach through examples! Shivakumar’s own house depends entirely on rain water - he has also conducted various training workshops and awareness programmes on rainwater harvesting.
His commitment towards water conservation was instrumental in establishing the Sir M Visvesvaraya Rainwater Harvesting Theme Park, the first-of-its-kind in the country. The park conducts mass awareness and training programmes and is working to install rainwater harvesting systems on government buildings and civil structures.
However, it is not only the government or NGOs that can help save the city’s wetlands.
Click here to see what you can do to help our taps, our wetlands and our cities from running dry!
Bellandur is the largest lake in the city and has a catchment area of about 148 square kilometres. Located in southeast Bengaluru, the lake flows further east to the Varthur Lake, ultimately joining the Pennar River.
However, the lake is currently highly polluted with untreated sewage. So much so that in May 2015 the foam covering the water surface of the lake caught fire and burned for hours.
Unplanned urbanization is a major reason why the lake is slowly dying along with the wildlife species that it once sustained.
Ulsoor is one of the biggest lakes in Bangalore and is located in east Bangalore. Spread over an area of 50 hectares, the lake also has several islands!
However, today, all kinds of toxic heavy metals, effluents and waste flows into the lake through three drains. High levels of phosphate and nitrates flowing into the wetland are leading to eutrophication – excessive nutrient inflow, while excessive concentration of zinc is making it toxic.
Hebbal Lake is a story in itself – a story of success!
Polluted heavily and in absence of proper maintenance, the lake – that was first created in 1537 – was almost on the way of getting completely exhausted. However, in 1998, the Karnataka State Forest Department started restoring the lake and built two artificial islands on it.
The islands enhanced the beauty of the lake and attracted a number of birds to the wetland. Today, these two vegetated islands have turned into roost sites for several species of water-birds.
Located in the north of Bangalore along the Bellary Road, the lake spreads over an area of 75 ha and has a catchment area, 3750 ha
The lake is a breeding ground for some 49 bird species - including endangered and migratory birds from the Northern Himalayas and Siberia!
Puttenahalli is a completely rain-fed lake with no other water source to replenish it.
Setting an example of wetland restoration, eight residents from the neighbourhood areas have started a trust called Yelahanka Puttenahalli Lake and Bird Conservation Trust to protect the birds and to work towards increasing biodiversity in the lake with the help of the government . Steps are also being taken to declare Puttenahalli as a Protected Area to protect the rich bird population and biodiversity sustained by it.
The lake covers an area of 10 ha and is situated near Yelahanka, 14 km north of Bangalore.