Lake city in distress

  • PTI, Bhopal
  • |
  • Updated: Jun 16, 2003 16:03 IST
A man walks through a dry-bed of the Upper Lake in Bhopal on May 30, 2003 which has dried up this summer.
Like much of peninsular and north India, Bhopal, too faces a severe water shortage in summer. Ironically, the capital of Madhya Pradesh is famous for its lakes and for long its people have both enjoyed for leisure and utilized these lakes as drinking water sources.

Of late however the situation has gradually worsened, despite the construction of the Kolar Dam, made to meet the burgeoning water demands of the city. 

Main water sources: Bhopal City, with a population of around 16 lakhs, has two main water sources - the Kolar Dam and the Bada Tal (Upper Lake). Besides, 12 to 15 per cent of the people depend on the ground water used through hand pumps and tube-wells. Through these sources, a quantity of 50-55 million gallons per day (mgd) is being supplied to the city.

Kolar Dam, situated 35 kilometres from Bhopal on Kolar River, is the source of largest supply for the city. The Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) purchases the water from the Irrigation Department.

This dam caters to the needs of 50-55 per cent of the population. The filtration plant is near the dam. After pumping to a hillock, the water is released by gravity to the city. The BMC is also laying a pipeline parallel to the present one from Kolar Dam. The proposed pipeline would enhance the capacity of supply from Kolar by 44 mgd.

Women with water containers jostle around a water tanker at Bhopal on June 1, 2003.
Upper Lake, the second largest source, is situated in the middle of the city. This lake provides 15-17 mgd of water through five pumping stations and seven filtration plants. The Upper Lake was the primary source of drinking water in the city till 1980s. But continuous exploitation and negligence of the majestic lake has drastically reduced its water retention capacity. The area of the lake that was about 22.7 sq. km has shrunk mainly on account of encroachment, silting and indiscriminate diversion of wastes into the lake.

The state government had in early 1980s commissioned a team to study the feasibility of bringing Narmada water to Bhopal. The committee proposed a project that included siphoning off water from Narmada about 30 kms from Bhopal and subsequently pumping it to the city. The project never took off and has been mired in controversy with BJP and Congress trying to politicise the issue in a bid to gain sympathy from the people. The delay has seen that the initial estimates of the Rs 96 crore project shot up to about Rs 1,000 crore. Neither the cash-strapped state government nor the Bhopal Municipal Corporation are in any way capable of funding the project as of now.

Boats lying idle on the dried bank of Upper Lake in April
Seasonal variation: Under normal circumstances, the Kolar Dam supplies 26-28 mgd, the Upper Lake supplies 17-19 mgd while the BMC-owned groundwater sources supply five mgd. However, the residents living in outskirts of the city have no water supply system. The citizens in such colonies use the ground water from their own sources. Going by the BMC's claim, the citizens are getting 140-150 litres per capita per day (LPCD).  

However, during summer months while the Kolar Dam continues to supply 27 mgd, the supply from the Upper Lake drops to 14-15 mgd and water from power wells, tubewells and wells comes down to 2-3 mgd, making the total supply at 45 mgd. This gives an average availability of 90-110 LPCD of water.

However the Public Health Engineering Manual on water supply of the Government of India, says that in a city the size of Bhopal, every person should be supplied average of 135 LPCD.

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