The last report that I saw said that the local Upper Lake was just 0.30 ft. short of the full tank level (FTL). This morning’s papers brought in the happy news that the flood gates at Kerwa were opened to release the excess water from the Lake. It is now only around the middle of August and the Lake is full ensuring a full year’s water supply. Gods have been kind to Bhopal as one never expected such copious rains. Forecasts were of a weak monsoon and, indeed, one came to believe in the predictions as till the end of July there was hardly any rain. A few sharp showers in the last 10 or 12 days relieved us of the anxiety. Then the monsoon took off showering bountiful of rains on Bhopal in the first week of this month.
Things were terrible till the rains set in. Water level in the so-called lifeline of the city sank to levels that were never touched before. It was below the dead storage level and yet the municipality claimed it was maintaining supplies by using floating pumps. But we hardly got any water and the Narmada line for which our Society paid three thousand-odd rupees did not yield any water. We were sustaining ourselves by getting tankers-full of water. One wondered where the tankers got their water from; and whatever they got was dirty and mucky fouling up the filters in the Aquaguard machine. Yet, it was the precious fluid.
The Lake looked in terrible condition. Huge swathes of land appeared where there was water not many days ago. The Island in the Lake ceased to be one and people could walk up to it. Waters of the Lake retreated from the fringes exposing the ugly soggy earth that was earlier kept hidden under a few feet of water. There was panic and the forecasts exacerbated it. One thought one was at the threshold of apocalypse and that too in Bhopal – the City of Lakes. Even in this crisis situation the supply pipelines would leak and the municipal tankers carrying precious water would also leak profusely.
That is all in the past now. Now that the city has been able to shed the specter of a water famine everyone needs to get into the act of conservation of our water resources, more so the public agencies like the Municipal Corporation, the Water Resources Department and sundry others. The country is now water stresses and we in Bhopal too are similarly stressed. Efforts need to be intensified for conserving what we have. Leakages from all sources should be banished by strictly monitoring the supply lines and the tankers that are used for water supply. All encroachments on the Lake need to be bulldozed away and the FTL levels need to be prominently marked and those who breach them should be prosecuted. Hopefully, the retaining wall that was ordered to be demolished by the former chief minister has since been demolished.
While surface water has to be conserved at any cost even the ground water needs to be conserved. There are strict regulations for sinking bore and tube wells which have been observed more in breach. Those found breaching the regulations have to face legal consequences. Unless this is done ground water that is an alternate source of water would not be available in times of needs. In fact availability of ground water should be enhanced by rainwater harvesting. The Municipal Corporation had reportedly made some legal provision for rainwater harvesting but enforcement has been patchy. Rigorous inspections need to be carried out to ensure that the rainwater harvesting arrangements are made wherever called for.
Water will be very much in the news in the future as rains are uncertain with clouds frequently playing truant. The Centre has, therefore, created a whole ministry for water naming it “Jal Shakti”. The civic bodies, too, have to look sharp to ensure that maximum amount is conserved and not a drop is lost. Officials need to be held accountable for any undue loss of water. It must be realized that the population has increased but the natural resources are shrinking with their unavoidable consequences.