This is an edited version of Water Matters, an interactive panel discussion with Rohini Nilekani. The event, held at Max Mueller Bhavan on 22nd March 2013, World Water Day, was part of a campaign on sustainable water conservation in Bangalore run by The Alternative, a media platform on sustainable living.
Bangalore is running short of water. We require 1.3 billion liters every day, to satisfy our population’s consumption needs, however our lakes and rivers which are our sources of freshwater, are fast giving way to urban development. They are being encroached on and the ones that are remaining are also being polluted by the sewage that’s leaving our homes, which is the second biggest problem. We send 1.1 million litres of waste water out of our city every day. So it is time to take a holistic look at what we can do individually, to be a part of the solution rather than add to the problem.
We have seen other cities around the world that have cleaned up their water bodies, and revived their rivers. I see no reason why we can’t reimagine our city in the same way, with Bangalore returning to what it used to be — with glistening lakes and enough water for all. The middle and upper classes that have seceded from the public systems, preferring their own underground pumps, overhead tanks, or bore wells are not going to be protected from water scarcity in the near future. Whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together. The people who got ousted from Ejipura and the people who live in the fancy bungalows all around the city are going to face the same problem soon. Our destiny is common, which might be a good thing because it makes us sit up and take notice that we’re part of the same problem in Bangalore. It means we all have to get together and act.
At Arghyam, we are committed to this journey for a long time. The issue is not just with big cities like Bangalore, but also with the 7,500 towns all over the country, and how to instill a culture of managing our own water systems, using local resources, reducing our ecological footprint, and managing water responsibilities. Water is not a resource we are entitled to, but a resource we are responsible for, and one that we need to learn how to use properly. I think India needs to begin functioning as a low water economy and a low water society, if we expect every citizen in India to have basic water resources that are sustainable and safe. So while we celebrate World Water Day, we must recommit ourselves to envisioning solutions that we can all be a part of.