Stephen Neil Gershom and Shama Nimkar
Bengaluru and its civic authority, BBMP, has been in the news of late because of its drive to raze the buildings which have been built on the storm water drains of the city. Calling it a drive against encroachment, BBMP has taken this step in order to prevent the city from extreme situations of flooding, instances of which have increased in the last decade.
‘Namma Ooru’ is a series of panel discussions organized by the Rotary Club of Bangalore aiming to draw attention to the many challenges faced by the citizens in Bangalore and strive to encourage people to become part of the problem-solving mechanisms.
The first session of the ‘Namma Ooru’ series was focused on the increasing flooding issue in Bengaluru and featured subject experts and speakers such as urban expert Ashwin Mahesh, Architect Naresh V Narasimhan, Water sustainability consultant Shubha Ramachandran, Legal expert Harish Narasappa and Urban Expert V Ravichander who discussed this issue through presentations and a panel discussion.
Mr. Narasimhan termed the Bengaluru flooding issue as ‘Harakere’, referring to the Japanese term ‘Harakiri’ which means killing oneself. He stated that, “Bengaluru’s residents are killing the city’s lakes themselves and that Bengaluru has never had an original waterbody but have all been man-made.” Bengaluru was known to be a land of 1000 tanks. In 1960 there were as many as 280 lakes, but today Bengaluru has less than 80 lakes.
Bengaluru has an ideal location, helping to resist floods. It is surrounded by mountain ranges on all the sides. It has the Eastern ghats, Western Ghats and Kanakapura hills surrounding it and stands at an altitude of 920 metres above sea level on a plateau and cannot even be hit by a Tsunami. The question remains; Why is there a flooding Issue?
Bangalore receives a yearly rainfall of 900mm. This year, July itself got 200mm of rain, leading to the collection of water in areas which once used to be man-made water bodies. Mr. Naresh went on to say that the Bangalore City Bus Stand once used to be the Dharmambudhi tank, KGA Golf Course Challaghata Tank, and the National Games Village used to be the Koramangala tank.
Encroachments: There has been a continuous encroachment of land in the last two decades of which, HSR layout is an excellent example. A bund was cut out of the lake which leads to the overflowing of water off its bank. Issues such as illegal construction, land dumping, sewage problem, drain encroachment are all results of the rapid urbanisation causing decline in the network of storm drains cleverly built in strategic locations across the city by the British engineers. Although, now there are sewage chambers inside drains combined with excessive garbage dumping, blocking the flow of water.
BBMP’s initiative of demolishing 1800 properties to reduce encroachment is nothing more than a temporary solution.
The identification of a single vulnerable belt does not eradicate the question of the other flood prone belts. The Panel discussion brought out the fact that, development projects in the future should be carried out keeping in mind the preservation of lakes and tanks avoiding encroachment, else the cycle will turn vicious leading to serious water shortage issues.
Shubha Ramachandran, water sustainability consultant for Biome Environmental Trust, an expert in the field of Ecology, narrated to the audience the success story of the implementation of rain water harvesting at a gated community in the city. Rainbow Drive is a small community in South Bengaluru located on Sarjapur Road. Their water supply and sewage disposal is very systematic with rainwater harvesting being their only source of water, recharging the ground-water level and being pumped out through community borewells. This leads to the judicious use of water. It also has improved sewage management systems, with sewage treatment plants being installed within the community. The segregated bio-waste is used as compost for farming.
Waste Management: Other solutions to the water-related problems in the city would be getting rid of the cess for solid waste management which is imposed by the government on the public for waste management. The public expects government agencies to clear their waste after paying for it, but it does not happen always. Individuals need to be aware of paying the right price for water. An amount of Rs. 20 for a 1 litre bottle sounds exorbitant compared to the Rs. 10.50 paid to the BBMP for 1000 litres of Cauvery water but that would get the whole of Bangalore stainless steel pipes for systematic water management if the money is put to the right use, said Mr. Narasimhan .
The event was attended by the members of the Rotary Club of Bangalore and top activists in the city. The discussion sparked thoughts of responsible citizenship and sustainable living and also brought to the table some solutions to end the flooding and land encroachment issues in the city.
Mr. Mahesh ended the session saying, “Be individually aware and act. There should be political and legal accountability. Don’t push everything on the government and hold it accountable for everything, but become a problem solver yourself. The answer to every problem is not in increasing the number of solutions, but in increasing the number of problem-solving people.”