Webinar: Bengaluru’s wastewater is polluting the Cauvery; users too must pay true cost of water

Bengaluru's untreated wastewater eventually enters the Cauvery river, which then reaches the city right back through its water supply network. A webinar looked at the problem and possible solutions.

Bengaluru city makes up only 6% of the Arkavathy river basin area, but is a major contributor to the river’s pollution. Similar is the case with Vrushabhavathi river. Wastewater from industrial areas like Peenya, along with domestic sewage, is choking these rivers.

Downstream, these rivers join the Cauvery, from which water is pumped up to meet the city’s needs. This effectively means that the wastewater dumped by the city comes right back to it. This was illustrated in a presentation made by Nirmala Gowda, co-founder of the paani.earth website that maps the rivers of Karnataka.

Nirmala was speaking at a webinar organised by Citizen Matters in collaboration with the Bangalore International Centre on April 29th.

Read more: In pictures: Where the Vrushabhavathy meets the Arkavathy

In addition to being polluted, the rivers around Bengaluru are also drying up. The government is building more dams despite this, said Nirmala.

Another panelist S Vishwanath, a civil engineer and urban planner, said Bengaluru has been consuming water from various river sources for over a century, and the demand only keeps growing. Two questions need to be considered, said Vishwanath. One, how much water from the Cauvery should Bengaluru be entitled to, and two, whether Bengalureans are ready to pay the true cost of supplying water to the city (Rs 95 per kilolitre). (For domestic consumers, BWSSB’s current water tariff ranges from Rs 7 to Rs 22 per kl.)

“Unless we pay the true cost of water, things won’t change,” said Vishwanath during the discussion on the issue of poor wastewater management in the city. “BWSSB (Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board) is too cash-strapped to invest in sewage management.”

Read more: Vrishabhavathi, Arkavathi, Cauvery, my mother

When stormwater drains in the city are revived through projects like the K100, all affected residents should be consulted, said Pinky Chandran, founding member of the citizens’ group SWMRT (Solid Waste Management Round Table). Pinky has been mapping the city’s stormwater drain network.

Watch the entire proceedings of the webinar below:

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