Parched Bengaluru in no mood to harvest rainwater


With water level in KRS dam threatening to hit dead storage levels, the BWSSB is struggling to quench the thirst of people in the city. However, experts have been warning against depending on Cauvery while wasting rainwater. Though the officials have made rainwater harvesting (RWH) compulsory, it has not been enforced in the city. The BWSSB has not been able to do much except issuing warnings occasionally.

About 23 tmcft of rainwater is wasted every year in the city due to lack of RWH infrastructure. The excess water runs into drains which do not have the capacity to handle the huge quantity of water, leading to flooding in low-lying areas. “Bengaluru receives about 1,000 mm rain every year. One can collect 2.06 lakh litres of water on 2,400 sqft,” said A R Shivakumar, Principal Scientific Officer, Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology.

If a person uses 135 litres of water per day, a family of four uses about 2 lakh litres per year. “A family of four living in a 2,400-sqft house is already getting the amount of water it needs from nature. We just need the will and commitment to harvest it,” he said. There are 19 lakh buildings in the city. If all the buildings collect rain water efficiently, they do not have to depend on the BBMP. However, a BWSSB survey found that only 29,000 buildings in the city have installed RWH units. This despite the government making RWH mandatory eight years ago.

Accordingly, the BWSSB in 2009 stated that old houses of 2,400 sqft and new houses of 1,200 sqft and above must have RWH units installed. There are more than 55,000 houses that are 2,400 sqft or bigger, according to BWSSB. In its 2009 order, the water agency said all the houses should instal RWH units by December 2011. The deadline was later extended to May 2012. 

In the next step, officials warned that BWSSB will not supply water to big houses which do not have RWH units. However, in the coming days, the BWSSB adopted a soft approach on the issue. The stance changed in 2016 when the law was amended to set yet another deadline. The BWSSB said houses that do not have RWH units by 2016 will be penalised. The deadline was extended to October. The agency has till now collected Rs 40 lakh as fine from house owners.

Houses without RWH are fined 25% of the water and drainage bill every month. This will go up to 50% after three months. The fine goes up to 50% of the bill for non-residential buildings, whose owners have to pay 100% of the bill as additional charges after three months. “The BWSSB has set up Sir M Visvesvaraya Rainwater Harvesting Theme Park at a cost of Rs 5 crore. People visit the park to get details about RWH,” said chief engineer of BWSSB Kemparamaiah.

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