My regular readers among you will know that I have been living in Bangalore for the past 6 years. You will also have read my previous post about the water shortage and how it affects my life (Here)
I read today a report on the woeful state of the City’s water infrastructure which states that “The Government of Karnataka will have to evacuate half of Bangalore in the next ten years, due to water scarcity, contamination of water and diseases.”
It goes on to say that “the groundwater in at least half of Bangalore is contaminated with sewage water. In 1790, a British captain had described Bangalore as the land of a thousand lakes. Today less than 200 of those 1000 lakes remain and are no more than sewage tanks. The sewage water contaminates the ground water and percolates into the borewells.”
Despite reports like this, the Government does not seem motivated to take any drastic action and the attitude of the average person towards water doesn’t change. It’s not just a problem confined to Bangalore but is prevalent in all the main cities here in India. While Mumbai City doesn’t have a water shortage the state of Maharastra (which Mumbai is the capital of) is suffering it’s worst drought in history. I read in the weekend paper about women in water-starved villages on the outskirts of Mumbai having to travel for an hour each way on the train to fetch water, even taking their dirty laundry with them to wash at whatever water source they find! Yet while sitting in a friends house at the weekend I look on in horror as the Bai (housemaid) comes in to wash the dishes and leaves the tap running for 20 minutes!
It rained last night for the first time in about 4 months. The hour prior to the arrival of rain,the sky was filled with an amazing pyrotechnic display and spectacular thunder claps which sent the street dogs scurrying for shelter.
The rain wasn’t expected as it normally doesn’t rain here until later in April in what locals call the “Mango showers” which herald the beginning of the much awaited mango season.
This morning everything is brighter and fresher, months of dust having been washed away and the plants gaining a new lease of life.
It’s not just rain we miss. The Municipal water supply (tap water) only comes once a week and we have to store the water and make it last until it comes again in 7 days.
We have an underground tank which stores 2500 litres and another two tanks on the roof which store 200 litres.
Underground water tank
Rooftop storage tank
As soon as we hear the municipal water coming in the pipes, there is a frenzy of activity, as the garden gets watered and a week’s worth of clothes washing is done.
To supplement the municipal supply we have a rainwater harvesting system (now mandatory but rarely enforced) which stores 2000 litres. After last night’s rain this is now full but it has been empty for months and as the rains become scarcer and scarcer with each passing year it is becoming a less viable alternative.
Consequently we have had to adapt and evolve our water consumption out of necessity.
Baths are had by filling a bucket with water and then using a smaller jug to scoop and pour the water over you. This uses less water than a shower and is the technique most of India uses.
The tap is definitely turned off while brushing one’s teeth and the toilet is only flushed for “2’s”.
My beautiful roof terrace garden which used to boast tomatoes and strawberries has been replaced through attrition, with drought hardy plants that can survive a once a week watering.
Roof terrace garden in pre-drought times
I have now become paranoid about water usage and my new super power is that I can hear a dripping tap from 100 metres away.
Awareness of the water shortage does not yet seem to have filtered through to a lot of the general public though. Some of our neighbours insist on washing their cars daily and throwing water down on their driveways and footpaths every morning. When their water runs out they just order in a tanker. The water tankers are filled from private bore-wells which tap into an ever depleting groundwater. Bore wells in Bangalore now have to drill down over 1000 feet to reach water and as the insatiable demand grows, the wells are increasingly drying up.
My water habits are now so ingrained that when I travel out of India I wince at the profligate wastage of water to the extent that friends make fun of me! One friend in Hong Kong(which itself imports 70% of it’s water from neighbouring China) would taunt me by turning on the tap every time I entered the kitchen and delighting in my horrified reaction!