Water Water Everywhere


The most basic and imperative human requirement takes a backseat when it comes to the burgeoning urban sprawl. Radha Prathi dwells on how water resources in the City are today, the most neglected.
Potable water crisis has become the order of the day, especially in urban India. Environmentalists, scientists, thinkers, politicians and the common man alike, are becoming acutely aware of the impending potable water crisis that is hanging over mankind like the threatening Damocles sword. Enterprising businessmen who understand the value of the life sustaining liquid, are busy drilling bore wells in the suburban areas of the city, to cater to the thirsty masses. Tank beds are on the brink of drying up or have already dried up, old dried up wells are being tapped for water all over again besides trying to source the same from new bore wells and remote springs that are dotted among the hillsides.

Right efforts?

Cleansing and purification of water is being undertaken by both, private and government sectors, by way of recycling water for various purposes. Scientists are trying to activate the clouds artificially, to trigger off timely monsoons while environmentalists are trying to conserve the existing sources of water to the maximum possible extent.

Lots of hasty measures are being taken to balance the situation and avert the looming doom, both, in the short and long run, yet, if a number of obvious loopholes in our plumbing system are set right, billions of gallons of water can be saved everyday. 

Fine-tuning the cracks

A talk with some of the personnel concerned, in the BWSSB department, revealed that it was indeed true that the city can have better water facilities if the plumbing system in the city was fine-tuned. They candidly admitted that the main plumbing system in the city is in a state of mess. While the old waterlines are in different states of corrosion, the newly laid lines are awry and follow no specific planning or pattern. The pipes laid to conduct potable water, sanitary waste, telephone lines and electricity, are sometimes placed alongside one another, leading to a lot of chaos and confusion whenever one of them has to be repaired.

Adding to woes

Felling of trees and projects involving widening of roads added their bit to the wastage of water. Statistics maintained by the authorities showed that anywhere between three to seven water lines burst open somewhere in the city, leading to leakage and loss of precious water till such time that they are repaired. The cause of most of the leakages happened when the sturdy lines are struck with a heavy axe when another line is being attended to.The BWSSB official could not help recollecting what pandemonium and loss of water, money and time, was caused when the pipe conducting water burst open, flooding the site where an underpass was being laid on Palace road in the past.

Coping with growth

A senior retired official, Shivabasappa, said there was nothing wrong with the design and drafting of domestic water distribution in the past decades — the unexpected growth of the city and new unauthorised layouts springing up in the outskirts of the city limits — happen to be the main culprits in the messing up of the system. New house owners in the aforesaid layouts do not have any qualms about indulging in “road cutting” and helping themselves to waterlines without following the procedure. They happen to be very united in their furtive activity and do not hesitate to bribe the authorities to regularise their water connection. One tenant in one such area pointed out that his house, which is situated on a corner site,  had access to two water pipelines that flanked his home and therefore, he faced “No” water problem at all since his sumps filled with water from both the sources. Some enterprising people who enjoy such a “facility”, not only live in abundance but also sell the stored water to the neighbourhood during a water shortage.

Wrong mix too often

Whilst illegal water connections ruin the smooth networking and functioning of water distribution, there are other factors that cannot be discounted. The quality of the water that reaches the common man, leaves much to be desired. Though newspapers and magazines try to make light of the situation by coming up with jokes and cartoons of how worms, moss or even a snake comes slithering out of a tap, one cannot forget that these incidents have taken place at one time or another at some place, leaving a sense of disgust and frustration behind for the people.

Mixing up of sanitary and water lines or water that has been stored for too long in unhygienic conditions, are apparently the reasons for these sickening accidents. Sometimes tap water is heavily chlorinated in the name of being cleansed, making it impossible to use the water for bathing, let alone cooking, for it cannot but leave a sense of distaste in the user.

Indian history boasts of a fine, foolproof plumbing system, right at the dawn of civilisation. Archeological studies reveal that India, during the heydays of the Harappan and Mohenjodaro civilisation, had homes with well laid pipelines conducting water to individual homes. Besides, every home had an operable sanitary system which not only kept their homes clean but also helped the waste to biodegrade, without letting toxic remnants pollute the atmosphere. But it appears that contemporary Indians have not learned much from history. The unlearnt lesson is proving to be a costly mistake these days and the intensity of the problem is likely to escalate in the coming days if we do not understand the importance of the proverb, “A stitch in time saves nine.”

Waste all the way

The public water tanks are either empty or overflowing and their water taps never seem to open or shut properly, thus leading to thousands of litres of water dripping away. Even when the occasional conscientious citizen wants to turn the tap off when it is not in use, the taps come across as inoperable. Residents of the city, who are aware of the water crisis, sheepishly confessed that they also were responsible for wasting water inadvertently, for they left their taps open day and night in the hope of collecting water whenever the authorities chose to supply it to them. Since no specific timings of water supply has been announced nor is it followed when announced, the citizens prefer not to take chances and leave a huge bucket under an open tap 24/7 so that they do not miss out on their quota of water.

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