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Bengaluru could become another Cape Town, says CSE

New Delhi : Bengaluru could become the next Cape Town and have its taps run dry in the not-so-distant future, the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has warned.

The Karnataka Capital has seen a drastic reduction in the number of water bodies in the past 40-odd years. The number has reduced by a whopping 79 per cent due to unplanned urbanization and encroachment even as built-up area has increased from just per cent in 1973 to 77 per cent now.

In last two decades, the water table has shrunk from 10-12 metres to 76-91 metres in the city.

An exclusive assessment done by CSE states that 10 metropolitan cities across the world are facing Day Zeroes – severe water shortage will hit them in unless they innovate, diversify supply sources and use water judiciously.

Along with Bengaluru, the 10 cities are Beijing, Mexico City, Sanaa, Nairobi, Istanbul, Sao Paulo, Karachi, Buenos Aires and Kabul.

The assessment finds that at least 200 cities across the world are fast running out of water and as many as 400 million people live in cities with perennial water shortages now. This number is expected to go up to 1 billion by 2050.

By 2050, 36 per cent cities across the world will face water crisis and urban water demand will go up by a whopping 80 per cent by then.

In Bengaluru's case, the number of extraction wells has gone up from 5000 to 0.45 million in just last 30 years. The city only uses half of its treatment capacity to treat waste and a substantial amount is dumped into its waterbodies.

Bengaluru’s population might reach 20.3 million by 2031 – and is growing by 3.5 per cent annually. This will put further pressure on the available water resources. Climate change too will bring its own challenge as it did in the case of Cape Town.

In 2015, Cape Town, one of Africa’s richest cities, had bagged the C40 Cities Awards for its Water Conservation and Water Demand Programme. By 2017-18, the city was in the throes of an unprecedented water shortage. It is estimated that the city’s taps will run dry this year, within the next few months.

How did this happen?

Cape Town relies on rainwater to fill up its six reservoirs, and below average rainfall from 2015-17 has contributed to the drying up of these reservoirs. In fact, the Western Cape region where Cape Town is situated has been undergoing a massive drying up process – a process linked to climate change -- since 2015.

“Be it Cape Town, Bengaluru or Chennai, there isn’t much difference between these cities – they are all witnessing a common present. The important question to ask is whether these cities can create and move toward a common future that is water secure because it is water-wise", said CSE Director General Sunita Narain.

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