Relearning the role of water in our cities

Rain is the modern-day tragedy in our cities: we desperately wait for the monsoons and when it rains, we weep because roads are flooded, life is disrupted. Mumbai, just a few months ago, was so thirsty for the monsoons that it was close to rationing its water supply. But then the rains came. The city did not rejoice. Instead, it went under water, all mixed with sewage and garbage, drowned in bad health. This scene is not very different in Delhi or any other city you can think of.

But the real tragedy is that in a few months, after the rains, our cities will be thirsting again. But then, rain is not part of our plan.

We believe we are all-powerful. Water greed will make us draw water from surrounding areas. Today, our cities get their water supply from further and further away – Delhi gets Ganga water from the Tehri dam, Bangalore is building the Cauvery IV project, pumping water 100km to the city, Chennai water will traverse 200km from the Krishna, Hyderabad from Manjira and so on. The point is that the urban industrial sector’s demand for water is growing by leaps and bounds. But this sector does little to augment its water resources, it does even less to conserve and minimize its use. Worse, because of the abysmal lack of sewage and waste treatment facilities, it degrades scarce water even further. But even after all this, its water greed is not met. Groundwater levels are declining precipitously in urban areas as people bore deeper in search of the water that municipalities cannot supply.

So, when it does not rain it cries and when it does rain, it cries. The cycle of water deprivation continues and we have done nothing to change our tomorrow.

This when we can do so much more. The water imperative is that cities must begin to value their rainfall endowment. This means implementing rainwater harvesting in each house and colony. But it also means relearning about the hundreds of tanks and ponds that nourished the city. Almost every city had a treasure of tanks, which provided it the important flood cushion and allowed it to recharge its groundwater reserves. But urban planners cannot see beyond land. So, land for water, has never been valued or protected. Today, these water bodies are a shame — encroached, full of sewage, garbage or just filled up and built over. The city forgot it needed water. It forgot its own lifeline.

Lakes are the vital sponges of the city. Every city gave its land for rain. Bangalore, at the beginning of the 1960s, had 262 lakes, now only 10 hold water. The Ahmedabad collector — on directions from the high court — listed 137 lakes in the city but also said that over 65 had been built over already. In Delhi, 508 water bodies were identified — again on court orders — but are not protected.

But to rethink the role of rain in our city, will require new learning in society. Just consider: builders and architects have simply never been taught how to hold water. They have been trained to see water as waste and to build systems to dispose of it as quickly as possible. German cities are learning from our experience. To save investment in building stormwater drains, the city charges a tax based on how much rainwater has been harvested by the household.

But this even this will not be enough. Each of our cities will have to learn the real value of rainwater: we will have to minimize water use and work on conservation and reuse. We will have to take our sewage and treat it so that we can recycle it — either for recharge or to make it fit for drinking.

Otherwise we will be the ultimate lost generation, which has forgotten the art of living with water. Our tragedy and our water crisis.

SUNITA NARAIN –  (The author is director of Centre for Science and Environment) – TOI

Met department predicts an improvement in rains

Monsoon havoc:People wade through a waterlogged road in Patna on Thursday. — Photo: PTI

NEW DELHI: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Thursday forecast that there could be some improvement in the monsoon situation over north India next week.

According to the latest bulletin, fairly widespread rain or thundershowers could occur over Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh, scattered rainfall over Bihar, east Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir and isolated rain or thundershowers over Delhi, Chandigarh, Haryana, Punjab, west Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat during the next three days.

The bulletin also forecast that maximum temperatures over the plains of northwest India and adjoining central India could fall by two to four per cent during the next two days. The IMD further announced that the northern limit of the monsoon, which had been remaining stationary since June 18, moved slightly northwards in north Madhya Pradesh covering Bhopal and its neighbourhood.

At the end of the first month of the four-month South-West Monsoon season on Wednesday, the country was faced with a rainfall deficiency of 16 per cent of the long period average for the month.

The situation was the worst in the central and the north-west parts of the country, with deficiencies of 26 per cent and 18 per cent.

Uttar Pradesh had the maximum shortfall, with the western part of the State recording a deficiency of 82 per cent and the eastern part 72 per cent.


Erode bus stand in need of attention

ERODE: Overflowing sewage, uncollected garbage, stinking and sickening toilets, broken chairs and dust covered platforms continue to be the hallmarks of Erode bus stand.

Despite the fact that thousands of people visit and hundreds of buses touch it daily, the condition of the bus stand is utterly chaotic, signifying the total apathy of the local authorities in improving the conditions prevailing here.

“The air is always filled with foul smell emanating from the unclean public toilets and uncollected garbage heaps,” say passengers.

The public convenience facilities at the bus stand are stinking. Most of the bus crew and passengers dare not enter these toilets, but prefer to ease themselves in the open, behind some vehicles.

As if the above mentioned problems are not suffice, the septic tank of a pay-and-use toilet started overflowing on Thursday.


Salem Residents: Give us water

Fill these pots: Residents of Kamaraj Colony in ward-16 in Salem staging road blockade on Thursday demanding adequate supply of water. - Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan


Residents flay supply of contaminated water

not potable:Residents of ward 21 of Virudhunagar town displaying contaminated water.

VIRUDHUNAGAR: Residents of ward 21 of Virudhunagar town have complained of sewage mixing with drinking water supplied through pipeline.

The residents fumed that drinking water was being supplied only two times a month in the town.

And even that little water was not usable for any purpose, a resident said.

Stating that chikungunya broke out in the area few months back, they fear of falling victim to diarrhoea due to water contamination.

The problem was prevalent in Marimuthu lane, Ramasamy lane, Andichiamman lane, Poosari lane and Kuppaiah lane, they said.

The ward councillor, N. Thangapandiammal, said she had complained about the issue to the administration two months back.

But no concrete action has been taken so far.


Water released from KRP dam for first crop

For rich yield:Water gushing out from the main canal of KRP dam after it was released on Thursday. — Photo: N. Bashkaran

KRISHNAGIRI: Water from the Krishnagiri Reservoir Project (KRP) dam was released for the first crop from the right and left main canals on Thursday by Collector (in charge) P. Prabhakar in the presence of E.G. Sugavanam, MP, and MLAs T. Senguttuvan and T.A. Meganathan. A total of 9,012 acres of agricultural land in 16 villages will benefit for the next 150 days from July 1 to November 27.

A total of 4,287 acres in the ayacut of right main canal and the small lakes on the way and 4,725 acres in the ayacut of left main canal and the small lakes on its way will be irrigated.

Periyamuthur, Sundekuppam, Thimmapuram, Soutaalli, Thalialli, Kalvealli, Kundalapatti, Mittaalli, Erraalli, Penneswaramadam, Kaveripattinam, Balekuli, Marichettihalli, Nagojanaalli, Janapparuralli and Paiyur will benefit from the dam water. “The time frame for water release will not be extended. Hence, farmers should use water judiciously,” Mr. Prabhakar said.

The water level in the dam was 48.50 ft as against its full height of 52 ft. S. Senguttuvan, Executive Engineer, R. Gouthaman, Assistant Executive Engineer and presidents of Water Users Associations participated.


Monsoon slows, reservoirs dip 1%

New Delhi: As monsoon makes a sluggish progress, the combined live storage in 81 major reservoirs of the country dipped by one per cent in June to stand at 12 per cent of their designed capacity.

According to latest figures released by the Central Water Commission (CWC) today, the combined live storage in the 81 reservoirs at the beginning of monsoon on June one was 13 per cent of their designed capacity, but dipped to 12 per cent on June 24.

Out of the 81, there are 43 reservoirs where this year’s storage is 80 per cent or less than the average of previous 10 years. In the remaining 38 reservoirs, the storage is more than 80 per cent of the average of previous 10 years.

The storage position in Narmada, Cauvery and Krishna basins is better than average of previous 10 years.

West-flowing rivers of South and rivers of Kutch are flowing close to normal, but the storage position in Ganga, Indus, Mahanadi, Tapi, Sabarmati, Mahi and Godavari basins is deficient, the CWC said.

Monsoon rains, crucial for the country’s trillion-dollar economy, have been 16 per cent deficient and stagnant over central India so far this season but meteorologists are hopeful of a revival soon.

According to statistics released by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the monsoon rains have been 16 per cent below normal for this season, mostly due to sluggish progress. The annual rains have not advanced since June 18 when they covered half of the country.

Financial Express