Urban Water Sector

World Water Day 2022: Urban Water Options

Feature Image: Bengaluru, second highest in rainwater harvesting in Indian cities. https://bengaluru.citizenmatters.in/rainwater-harvesting-in-bengaluru-webinar-64351

On World Water Day 2022, here are some positive water reports from urban India. Two reports on Positive Groundwater and Water stories from India over past one year have been separately published.

Mumbai BMC scarps Gargai dam, goes for alternatives In a wise move, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has cancelled Gargai dam project. In January 2014, SANDRP had made submission to Expert Appraial Committee (EAC), highlighting the adverse impacts of this project on tribal people and Tansa Sanctuary stressing on exploration of alternatives including recycling of sewage and rain water harvesting. Finally, now the BMC has scrapped the unjustified project which would have caused felling of 4.5 lakh trees which BMC chief Iqbal Chahal rightly finds pointless in the wake of increasing climate change threats.

In February 2020 BMC was learnt reconsidering its Pinjal dam project and exploring other options including waste water recycling. Indeed the BMC is taking right steps. Dams are costly, destructive projects impacting rivers, forests and local people in multiple ways. The demand side management, efficient use of existing water supplies, rain water harvesting and recycling of waste water are among far better alternatives to meet urban water demands.

The BMC has cancelled the Gargai dam project which will save 4.5 lakh trees. BMC chief Iqbal Chahal said learning from experiences of the two cyclones, the BMC decided there was no point in cutting down 4.5 lakh trees to build Gargai dam and bring drinking water to Mumbai.  Chahal said the BMC has taken up the setting-up of sewage treatment plants. “Six sewage treatment plants which will convert 2,400 million litres of sewage into potable water daily are being set up at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore,” he said. The sewage treatment plants will be constructed with BMC’s resources. “The desalination and sewage treatment plants will solve Mumbai’s potable water issue on a permanent basis,” the civic chief said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/mumbai-for-desalination-plant-bmc-inks-mou-with-israel-firm/articleshow/88173745.cms  (09 Dec. 2021)

BMC is rethinking its proposal to construct Pinjal dam in Palghar district to meet the water supply demand of Mumbai. Instead, the civic body seems to be focusing on recycling of used water to reduce the pressure on fresh water sources. The Pinjal dam, which has been on BMC’s drawing board for years, did not find a mention in the budget tabled last week, even as ₹402 crore was allocated for recycling of water for non-potable purposes. If constructed, Pinjal dam would have submerged 1,130.82 hectares or 11 sq kms of forests — more than three times the area of Bandra Kurla Complex. https://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/bmc-rethinks-pinjal-dam-project-to-focus-on-recycling-water/story-ppy1lsPRRbwhTpM2kMMCwN.html  (12 Feb. 2020)

Bengaluru City can do without Mekedatu dam: Experts Bengaluru will not need drinking water from the proposed Mekedatu balancing reservoir, feel experts and officials from the Water Resources Department. They point that no water audit has been done for the City to accurately ascertain the quantum of water the city will need. Instead of utilising the existing infrastructure to the optimum, the government is working on creating new infrastructure without any proper study, they noted.

A researcher from IISc pointed, “Ecological aspects need to be understood. The government has brushed aside a proposal to divert used water from Bengaluru to TG Halli, treat and re-use it. It is ideal to use existing infrastructure, save money and meet the city’s water needs.” https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2022/jan/15/bluru-can-do-without-mekedatu-water-experts-2407029.html  (15 Jan. 2022)

According to the Economic Survey, the current shortfall in the water supply in 2021, as estimated by the Bangalore water supply and sewerage board (BWSSB), is 650 MLD, which is likely to go up to 1,450 MLD by 2031.

Urban planner and water conservation expert S Vishwanath said that projections by the government are often exaggerations with political motives behind them. “Bengaluru currently gets 1,470 MLD of water. Apart from that, there is 600 MLD of groundwater in the city. With the current population in the city, even with 150 litre of water per capita, we will have enough water for the entire city,” he said.

Vishwanath, however, pointed out that when the projections are made at 200 litres of water per capita, a shortage could be predicated and such exaggerated numbers are used to allow projects like Mekadattu. “Most of the calculations claiming there is a shortage is based on this outrageous 200 litre per capita calculation, without taking groundwater into consideration. Even by European standards, 100 litres per capita is a good amount. The fact is that with the current water supply, harvesting at least half of Bengaluru’s rainwater and recycling 1/3 of sewage water, Bengaluru will not have a problem till 2050. Such claims of shortage are used to propel projects like Mekadatu,” he pointed out. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/bengalurusurvey-points-to-water-shortage-in-near-future-experts-disagree-101647109865839.html  (13 March 2022)

Step back and think Amazingly sensible EDIT on Mekedatu project in Deccan Herald on Jan 5, 2022: “But it would be wise to examine the cost-benefit ratio of the project in view of its potential environmental impact in a time of climate change. The Rs 9000 Cr project which aims to store 67 TMCft of water will submerge over 12000 acres of forest land, including 4500 acres of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a prominent elephant corridor and home to several endangered species. The impact on wildlife during construction period itself can be easily imagined – the pre-feasibility report mentions the use of 2000 T of to clear the rocks at the dam site. Post project, even if the government takes up the compensatory afforesatation, a promise that in most cases remains on paper, a man-made monoculture ‘forest’ cannot replace a natural forest… Therefore, it is important to adopt a sustainable approach, including such measures as wide spread rain water harvesting, use of treated and recycled water, rejuvenation of Bengaluru’s lakes and its storm water drainage system… the government should explore if Bengaluru’s water security can be achieved through more environment friendly means, rather than the conventional way of building dams and reservoirs. An objective environment impact assessment would make  matters clear.” https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/second-edit/mekedatu-project-step-back-and-think-1068040.html  (05 Jan. 2022)

This report list out how RWH, waste water treatment can help mitigate Bengaluru water crisis: A city blessed with an annual average rainfall of 787 mm even without a record year, could have avoided the perennial struggle to meet its yearly water demand of 18 TMCft. A robust rainwater harvesting system, a foolproof wastewater treatment mechanism and a strong renewable energy network should have left Bengaluru self-reliant in both water and power supply.

– there is still a way out — the city’s 193 surviving lakes can serve as reservoirs for rainwater. Dr T V Ramachandra, from the Indian Institute of Science Centre for Ecological Sciences, believes that rejuvenating lakes can enable the city to retain its rainwater.

“Bengaluru’s topography that allows an interconnected lake system gives us this option. In the Koramangala-Challaghatta Valley alone, we can store about 5.2 TMCft of water,” Ramachandra says. To achieve this, clearing silt in most lakes and connecting canals is essential. “Desilting will enhance the storage capacity of lakes and recharge groundwater with clean water,” he says. However, desilting seems to be a half-hearted effort. A case in point is the slow pace of desilting work at the Varthur-Bellandur lakes.

The potential of rain: RWH offers a clear way out if the lake storage is smartly executed. Studies have established that about 73% of Bengaluru’s water demand can be met by efficient harvesting. Of the city’s 4 valleys, the Vrishabhavathi valley has an estimated catchment yield of 7.32 TMCft, K C Valley (5.2 TMCft) and Hebbal (4.2 TMCft). The city’s total annual rainwater yield stands at about 14.80 TMCft.

Treating 18 TMCft of wastewater generated in the city could yield another 16 TMCft. “This means you end up with 31 TMCft, which is a surplus situation. You can be self-sufficient and also give the excess water to the neighbouring districts.” However, there is a problem of implementation for RWH. In a city with an estimated 35 lakh properties, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has recorded only about 1.65 lakh buildings that have installed RWH systems, domestic, commercial and industrial combined.  https://www.deccanherald.com/specials/insight/way-out-of-bengalurus-recurring-water-crisis-1069350.html  (09 Jan. 2022)

Bangalore since 2012 has reduced non-revenue water from 49% to about 34% and the work is still on: https://www.deccanherald.com/city/reducing-water-loss-drop-by-drop-pipe-by-pipe-1092899.html  (20 March 2022)

City can now treat all of its sewage The recent operationalisation of a STP at Rajarajeshwari Nagar, the second here, has helped the city attain this landmark. The new Vrishabhavathi Valley Plant, adjacent to the Metro station, can treat up to 150 MLD of sewage. The waste generated reaches the STP by gravity. It has been built at a cost of Rs 470 crore under the Mega City Revolving Fund for which the Centre, State and the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board contribute.

BWSSB Executive Engineer Rahul Priyadarshi explained that all the STPs together have the capacity to treat 1,523 MLD of sewage. “The sewage generated daily in Bengaluru is around 1440 MLD. For the first time in the city’s history, the ability to completely handle the water we generate has been made possible after this plant started working,” he added. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/2022/mar/19/bengaluru-can-now-treat-all-its-sewage-2431735.html  (19 March 2022)

Second highest in rainwater harvesting in Indian cities With the severe water scarcity in Bengaluru, a large number of residents have to buy water, more so during summers. And due to indiscriminate digging of borewells in the rush to find water, the city’s groundwater has been overexploited.

But the efforts of many Bengalureans in rainwater harvesting (RWH) already show the way ahead for the city. Currently, Bengaluru is the Indian city with the second-highest number of RWH installations (1.55 lakh), next only to Chennai. Highlighting such efforts, and discussing how to amplify these, was the focus of a webinar jointly organised by BWSSB (Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board), Biome Environmental Solutions, and Citizen Matters on Jul 10. https://bengaluru.citizenmatters.in/rainwater-harvesting-in-bengaluru-webinar-64351  (14 Jul 2021)

Jakkur lake sets an example for inclusive rejuvenation projects Jakkur Lake in north Bengaluru has received many accolades for creating and sustaining the rejuvenation and conservation initiative.

Jockim near coracles on the banks of Jakkur Lake. The lake supports and provides livelihoods for 70 fishing families who played a crucial role in reviving the lake. Photo by Madhusudhan.

The lake supports and provides livelihoods for 70 fishermen families and their role has been crucial to the success of the lake rejuvenation project. Jockim, a fisherman, and other members of his community rue the general attitude to keep local communities out of conservation plans and not recognise their contribution. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/04/the-story-of-jakkur-lake-sets-an-example-for-inclusive-rejuvenation-projects/  (05 April 2021) 

Rejuvenation of Mahadevapura Lake through a collaboration with Corporates and Civic Authorities. https://cddindia.org/wp-content/uploads/Mahadevapura-Lake-2021.pdf

Authorities in charge of Lalbagh are rejuvenating wells that are over a century old to meet the garden’s water requirements.  https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/civic/the-slush-roads-of-varthur/articleshow/85581035.cms   (25 Aug. 2021)

Encroachment cleared from stormwater drain An encroached stormwater drain on the outskirts was cleared by the officials of Revenue and Survey depts within 100 days. The 4.5 km stormwater drain from Muthanallur lake to Battalkere lake encroachment clearance is also expected to aid the KC Valley Project, said Army veteran, activist Santhosh Kumar. Kumar had earlier spotted the encroachment and approached government officials in 2020.

On March 24, 2021, the clearance work began with government approval by the Revenue department and ended in June. After the recent rains, the water started flowing through Battalkere lake, he said in his post on social media. The land was encroached upon for over five decades; it had affected the lake ecosystem in the region and caused flooding in the low-lying areas nearby, he added. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/encroachment-cleared-bengaluru-stormwater-drain-city-lakes-fill-152197  (11 July 2021)

Chennai Recharge wells constructed across SEWA colony Residents of Seethamma Extension Welfare Association (SEWA) in Teynampet are benefiting from a wise investment made last year — constructing 13 rainwater recharge wells on 5 roads. While the exercise was aimed at checking water-logging, it has brought an added benefit their way. “Mapping the areas with water logging, we constructed rainwater harvesting pits,” says Bharath Srinivasan, Association secretary, adding that they sought Greater Chennai Corporation’s permission to undertake the work. 17 to 20 feet deep, the pits are fitted with a filter and chamber.

Sixteen recharge wells have been dug across the five streets of Seethamma Extension. Photo: Special Arrangement/The Hindu

Constructed in October 2020, they are cleaned every quarter. Once a year, before the monsoon, a deep cleaning of the wells is undertaken. SEWA recently completed work on constructing 3 more wells, again based on observation by residents about water logging in certain streets. Rajkumar points out that they invested ₹1.5 lakh in the project and plan to spend more to ensure rainwater that collects at road corners does not go wasted. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/rainwater-harvesting-pits-constructed-across-this-colony-in-chennai/article36038146.ece  (21 Aug. 2021)

Residents turning to RWH at road corners Rain Centre, a city-based voluntary organisation, is joining hands with residents’ welfare associations to dig recharge wells along road corners. This year, the Centre plans to dig 40 recharge wells. While 50% of the funds would be provided from corporate social responsibility funds, the residents’ welfare associations would have to pitch in the remaining amount. Each recharge well of a minimum of 3 feet diameter and 15 feet depth would cost nearly ₹23,000. The wells will help recharge the groundwater table and also reduce waterlogging on the roads. Residents may approach the centre at 9677043869 for such joint efforts. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chennai-residents-are-now-turning-to-rainwater-harvesting-at-road-corners/article35647362.ece  (31 July 2021)

Best rain water harvesting systems Whenever the monsoon is close at hand, rainwater harvesting pitter-patters into the spotlight. Where no rainwater harvesting installation exists, a rude goad can be expected. Where an RWH structure does exist, a possible laurel can be won. Jains Pebble Brook, a gated community in Thoraipakkam, has received laurels for its rainwater harvesting installations and the results it has achieved with them. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/best-rain-water-harvesting-systems-in-chennai/article37160028.ece  (25 Oct. 2021)

Initiative to clean drains in urban local bodies Nearly one lakh workers have begun cleaning storm water drains in all the urban local bodies in Tamil Nadu to prepare for the rains. The drive from September 20 to 25, including in Chennai, aims to ensure streets and residential areas don’t flood in the northeast monsoon with the risk of water-borne diseases. The state highways department also commenced a mega-desilting exercise along Chennai’s arterial roads.

23,838 workers in corporations, 42,634 in municipalities and 28,624 in town panchayats are involved. In Chennai, 2,414 workers are engaged in the clean-up in 15 zones, and 722 workers will clear the silt removed from the 83km of drains. “Not only SWDs but macro drains, waterways of major bridges and wells of vehicular subways will be desilted this week,” said a highway official. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/tamil-nadu-1-lakh-workers-begin-to-clean-drains-in-urban-local-bodies/articleshow/86416806.cms (22 Sep 2021)

Hyderabad RWH Theme Park This is the second RWHS park in the country, after Bengaluru. Apart from materialising the process, the park officials are also focused on promoting RWHS among citizens, NGOs, RWAs and schoolchildren. Over 20,000 people have already visited the park. The park showcases more than 40 items on the theme of water conservation, rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge etc. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/hyderabad/2021/aug/29/hyderabads-rainwater-harvesting-theme-parkto-help-us-keep-our-heads-above-the-water-2351307.html (29 Aug 2021)

Start-up revives lost wells Over the last two years, The Rainwater Project has revived at least six wells in and around Hyderabad with support from other NGOs, private donors, etc.

Learning about traditional water systems, understanding the engineering behind it, location of water collection, and distribution points — the group has found and documented more than 200 heritage wells across Telangana in the last four years. “Along with the revival of wells, connecting water stories to urban stories, too, is important. These wells were public spaces of cultural importance. Restoring the structure and ensuring the quality of catchment, too, is important for its survival,” she noted. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/hyderabad/hyderabad-start-up-revives-lost-wells-7744614/  (28 Jan. 2022)

Step wells were once an elaborate water management system in Hyderabad, helping slake the city’s thirst and keep the water table up. The city’s administration, with the help of private bodies, is now at at work to revive some of them. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/in-frames-a-step-up-for-groundwater/article65242969.ece/photo/1/  (20 March 2022)

Historic Katora Houz gets fresh lease of life After rejuvenating the Langar Houz lake, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) Khairatabad zone officials have now cleaned the historic Katora Houz. The Katora Houz was built in the 16th century by Qutub Shahi rulers as a freshwater storage tank. However, hit by apathy over the decades, the water body turned into an eyesore with water hyacinth covering the complete lake. Following this, the civic body deployed a team of 18 personnel equipped with required machinery and within 10 days, were able to remove the water hyacinth and fish out the garbage from the water body using an earthmover. https://telanganatoday.com/hyderabads-historic-katora-houz-gets-fresh-lease-of-life  (20 March 2022)

Pune Peshwa-era Katraj nahar keeps water secure even today Perennial water source under various peths which modern development and city governance have chosen to neglect; floods basements every year in monsoon which is a matter of great embarrassment writes Saili K Palande-Datar. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/pune-news/sutradharas-tales-350-year-old-peshwa-era-katraj-nahar-keeps-pune-water-secure-even-today-101631102664591.html  (08 Sept. 2021)

Khadki cantonment start rejuvenating water bodies Pune and Khadki cantonment boards have started rejuvenating natural water bodies in their jurisdiction as a part of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. Altogether 24 water bodies have been identified in 19 cantonments, including in Pune, Khadki and Dehu Road in the Southern Command area of the army. The Pune cantonment has initiated the work of rejuvenating a natural spring at Muredha garden and a jogging park in the army residential area near turf club, the Khadki cantonment board has desilted and cleaned two British-era water wells in the Khadki bazaar area. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/pune-khadki-cantts-start-rejuvenating-water-bodies/articleshow/87674087.cms  (13 Nov. 2021)

Shailendra Patel, a passionate water warrior from Pune, is on a mission to save a live spring in the city. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/water-warriors-fight-springs-hope-springs (3 Feb 2022)

Delhi Biodiversity parks harvest 1.4mn gallons A recent ecological survey has revealed that 1.4 million gallons of rainwater was harvested by the seven biodiversity parks of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) during the monsoon season between July and September this year. The survey was carried out by the staff of the biodiversity parks. Officials at the biodiversity parks said that the survey was conducted for the first time to ascertain the role of these parks in conservation of water resources in Delhi. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/biodiversity-parks-make-most-of-monsoon-harvest-1-4mn-gallons/articleshow/87144620.cms  (20 Oct. 2021)

Nearly 1000 waterbodies put on map State Wetland Authority has given unique identification numbers to 1,040 waterbodies in the capital. While the city was always believed to have around 1,000 ponds, it is the first time that they have been identified in official records. Of those given the UID numbers, 995 have also been mapped on a GPS platform. The Wetland Authority has fixed a deadline of June 2022 for the notification of all wetlands for conservation and management.

For the 1,040 listed waterbodies, the land-owning agencies had submitted 520 brief documents. “We have asked for the remaining brief documents by August 30,” said a Wetland Authority official. “A technical committee will review the brief documents and management plans prepared by the agencies by December.” The official added that the authority would forward the recommendation for notification of waterbodies to Delhi government by March 2022 and the final notification process is expected to be completed by June 2022. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/nearly-1000-waterbodies-put-on-map/articleshow/85470510.cms  (20 Aug. 2021)

Lake Revived in Ashoka Park The revival of this water body is helping to replenish the groundwater table and providing a good habitat for many local and migratory birds. Fish have been released into the water body to maintain aquatic life. Horticulture around the periphery is the next goal.

Image NDNS

The residents living nearby enjoy the park with their morning walks and runs, practicing yoga and as an escape from digital screens. Daily visitors have increased over time and people love the beautiful landscape around the lake. https://www.ndns.in/lake-revived-in-ashoka-park/  (29 April 2021)

Unique stepwells Vikramjit Singh Rooprai wrote a book on Delhi’s stepwells, mentioning 32, profiling 10. Jatin Chhabra catalogues stepwells on his website, visits them & wants to publish a guide on ancient stepwells. National Water Mission has just published such a guide. https://www.theweek.in/columns/bibek-debroy/2021/07/08/bibek-debroy-writes-on-the-unique-stepwells-of-india.html  (18 July 2021)

Gurugram GMDA to promote treated water use at construction sites After using treated water in green belts, officials of the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) are planning to promote the use of treated water at construction sites, as part of an initiative to conserve water. The chief executive officer of GMDA, in a meeting on Aug 17 instructed officials concerned to find out ways for best utilisation of treated water. “As per norms, treated water should be used by builders at construction sites, but this does not happen always as the water needs to be filled in tankers and taken to the site. Under this initiative, around 200 hydrants are likely to be installed with new pipelines and their locations will be shared on the website, so people know the nearest hydrant,” a senior GMDA official said.

However, real estate developers said that due to water scarcity, treated water is already being used. The urban environment division of the GMDA is planning to install lateral lines of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes along with hydrants to supply treated water. These hydrants would be installed with a spacing of 30 metres and pipes are set up using trenchless technology, a method used for installing or replacing pipelines with minimum disruption to the surface. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/gurugram-news/gmda-to-promote-treated-water-use-at-construction-sites-101629481865470.html  (20 Aug. 2021)

Surat Wastewater As A Resource: Some Learnings This report talks about Surat model of sewage treatment and recycle that is claimed to have developed over several years. The “Surat Model” was borne out of necessities as well as proactive collaboration and decision-making between the govt and industry. Several social and cultural barriers around wastewater reuse remain still, but the stark necessity may soon force govts and municipalities around the world to seriously consider more uses of sewage as well as industrial wastewater. “Next time you visit us, we might as well greet you with a glass of recycled sewage, treated and tested to the highest standards”, adds Mr Pathan with a chuckle, raising his eyes briefly from the steady flow of paperwork in front of him. https://thelogicalindian.com/environment/wastewater-as-resource-learnings-from-gujarat-28491  (23 May 2021)

Burhanpur Reviving 400-year-old Mughal era water structures

कुंडी भंडारा का मॉडल। इस तकनीक में पानी ऊंचाई से भूमिगत नहरों के जरिए शहर तक पहुंचता है। इस तकनीक में ऊर्जा की जरूरत नहीं होती, बल्कि गुरुत्वाकर्षण बल और हवा से पानी का बहाव सुनिश्चित होता है। तस्वीर साभार- एप्को

The city, which once served as the Deccan headquarters of the Mughals, is on the banks of river Tapti and has many ancient structures, including a unique 400-year-old underground water harvesting system. https://hindi.mongabay.com/2021/12/14/reviving-400-yo-mughal-era-water-structures-to-combat-climate-change-in-burhanpur-madhya-pradesh/  (14 Dec. 2021)

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

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