Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Water and the real estate fire

The water crisis gets worse by the day, in Bangalore atleast and we are not into summer yet. It is resembling Chennai (prior to the last few years downpour) with water tankers becoming a part of the traffic and plastic "lotas" adding colour to an otherwise uninspiring urban landscape.

Bangalore is a victim of unplanned development - so whats new you may ask - that is the case with all cities in India. It is also a victim of its own success, despite the best attempts of senile politicians to wreak havoc with its infrastructure - companies still flock to Bangalore. So, even as a new government tries, with some success, to put bang into the infrastructure buck, a water crisis is happening. Indeed, I found a water blog.

The Kaveri river is drying up; not the river, but some of the reservoirs that supply to Bangalore, thanks to low rains in catchment areas last year. That is only part of the crisis. Kaveri water itself is supplied only to certain areas of Bangalore, but developers have covered Greater Bangalore and more in concrete from head to toe. That means, dependence on groundwater. Drill borewells ever so deep. There is a regulation in the offing for that too, but by the time it comes, Bangalore will not be drilling for water, but mining. Right now, the search is on for borewells on the outskirts of Bangalore - so that the city gets water - even if it is for washing facades and walls - and most of Bangalore does that. At the risk of making a general statement, Bangalore does not have a great culture of conserving water - many still use the precious resource to throw in front of their yard or wash their porch.

The concrete cover means water never seeps to the ground. Rainwater harvesting is supposed to be mandatory, but I havent seen too many buildings do it. As per a new regulation ETPs are mandatory too, for new apartment complexes, but most of the small builders will somehow sneak out of it.

All this requires space and Bangalore is heaven for building rule violations. Violations are the norm. And its not just big builders, even "poor" "exploited" small plot owners build end to end, no space that can be built over is left. Concrete and marble driveways, concrete basements are built over trees mown down so that beautiful walls are not torn down and beautiful concrete facades are visible.

In any new area, any water source, even groundwater will deplete within 2-3 years. So buildings are taking tankers on lease, borewells on lease, building pipelines from borewells in the hope that the problem will go away. But what they dont realize is that unless consumptions patterns change, rainwater harvesting and usage of non potable water for their lawns and gardens are put in place, the water crisis will not go away. So, what ever new apartments come up, whatever groundwater is left, once that is exhausted will find no buyers.

Thats some cold water poured over the real estate fire...

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