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Reviving Bengaluru’s Water Ecosystem: Bengaluru’s Historical Water Woes

(News Trust of India) : In the annals of history, Bengaluru, long a bustling oasis, has witnessed a remarkable metamorphosis. From its origins as a semi-arid region filled with prickly plants, the city has blossomed into a busy metropolis. Yet, among this urban sprawl lurks a neglected legacy — the disappearance of its once-abundant waterbodies.

In the 16th century, Bengaluru’s topography gave testimony to an innovative strategy towards water conservation. Inspired by the imperative to guarantee a sustainable water supply, kings of yore erected an elaborate network of tanks and streams. These man-made reservoirs acted as lifelines for local residents, changing the parched environment into fertile land.

Kempegowda’s Enduring Legacy

Enter Kempegowda, the visionary founder of Bengaluru, who heard his mother’s insightful counsel to “build lakes, plant trees.” Embracing the mentality of his predecessors, Kempegowda went on a gigantic undertaking to increase Bengaluru’s water infrastructure. His legacy, engraved in stone, encompasses at least 100 lakes that formerly dotted the metropolis.

The rationale behind this intense pursuit of lake creation was evident – Bengaluru lacked a perennial source of water. Unlike towns blessed with natural rivers, Bengaluru relies mainly on man-made reservoirs to quench its thirst. These interconnected lakes guaranteed a consistent supply of water, encouraging agricultural prosperity and community well-being.

A Modern Paradox: The Decline of Bengaluru’s Waterbodies

Fast forward to the present day, and Bengaluru’s water environment paints a gloomy image. What was once a robust ecosystem of 1,452 waterbodies in the 1800s has reduced to a measly 193 remnants. The city’s core bears testament to this brutal reality, with increasing urbanization encroaching into erstwhile aquatic sanctuaries.

The seeds of this fall were sowed throughout the colonial era, as British rulers sought to cater to rising urban demands. Piped water networks displaced traditional water sources, relegating lakes to the periphery of public attention. Post-independence, the unrelenting march of urbanization further worsened this trend, as real estate developers profited on prime waterfront estates.

Unveiling Bengaluru’s Water Crisis

At the core of Bengaluru’s water dilemma lies a tale of growing demand and shrinking supply. The city’s voracious thirst, worsened by a booming population reaching 16 million, places great strain on restricted water resources. With over 2,600 million litres of freshwater required daily, Bengaluru grapples with an existential challenge – preserving its water ecosystem in the face of growing pressures.

The specter of groundwater extraction looms big, with roughly 14,000 borewells punctuating Bengaluru’s urban development. These deep-seated aquifers, once bountiful pools of life-giving water, now stand impoverished, drained by the unrelenting demands of urbanization. The repercussions are grave, as 50% of borewells have run dry, heralding a crisis of unparalleled proportions.

Charting a Path Towards Revival

Amidst the gloom, glimmers of optimism appear, nudging Bengaluru towards a brighter future. Embracing new solutions anchored in sustainability, activists and officials alike are championing efforts to rehabilitate the city’s water ecology. Drawing inspiration from successful models like Hyderabad’s Neknampur lake rejuvenation, Bengaluru aspires to restore its lost splendor.

Phytoremediation: Nature’s Purifier

One such pioneering project is the implementation of phytoremediation, a natural procedure that harnesses the power of plants to detoxify tainted water. By deploying ‘floating islands’ decked with indigenous vegetation, Bengaluru wants to restore its lakes and replenish groundwater supplies. This eco-friendly strategy not only mitigates pollution but also nurtures biodiversity, signaling a paradigm shift in water management practices.

Treated Water Rejuvenation

Complementing these grassroots efforts, authorities have disclosed plans to send purified water into Bengaluru’s ailing lakes. With a projected intake of 1,300 million litres per day, this effort holds the prospect of refilling diminishing groundwater reserves. By leveraging the potential of reclaimed water, Bengaluru aspires to chart a road towards sustainable water management, assuring a brighter tomorrow for generations to come.

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