A City of Millions Trying to Dig a Million Wells
By: Shwetang Desai
We’ve all heard of great initiatives to plant a million trees, distribute a million meals, or even install a million solar roofs. One such creative initiative can be seen in one of the fastest-growing cities in Asia, a city of millions, which plans to dig over a million wells to quench its growing need for water.
Bangalore is India’s tech capital and a sprawling megacity, but the outskirts of Bangalore still do not have access to piped water. The Arkavathi is a river near Bangalore, but the rapid growth and industrialization of Bangalore mean that the river can no longer support the demand of the city. However, using groundwater is a viable alternative. Currently, Bangalore has issued authorization for approximately 400,000 deep bore wells; however, most have been used dry and replenishing these deep wells would take years, which is off the table for Bangalore.
However, a group of real-life heroes has come to Bangalore’s rescue with a viable plan that seeks to solve the water crisis while empowering the community of the Mannu Vaddars, which has specialized in digging wells for many generations. “One Million Wells for Bengaluru”, is a tremendous initiative supported by the Biome Environmental Trust and is the focal point of Bangalore’s positive environmental revolution.
The initiative seeks to dig traditional wells, which are open “recharge” wells that fill up by extracting water from shallow aquifers. These shallow aquifers are filled with water when it rains, or whenever water percolates down.
However, modern-day mechanization has led to the replacement of traditional wells with borewells, which has led to a crisis for the Mannu Vaddars, the traditional well-diggers. Compared to a borewell, which only mines water, an open well is environmentally sustainable as it keeps the groundwater “table” intact.
The construction cost of a traditional open well is also much cheaper! Mannu Vaddars collaborate with hydrogeologists and use ancient Indian architectural methods to identify a possible well’s location. The well is then dug and holds rainwater between 3-30m underneath the Earth’s surface. Experts estimate that if the city digs one million traditional open wells, it can achieve 50-60% rainwater percolation, avoid urban flooding, and supply 1400 million litres of water a day!
The digging of one million wells will provide a stable groundwater bank all across the city, constantly recharging aquifers and creating water security. Not only that, but the wells will also provide the Mannu Vaddars community with a chance to preserve their tradition while earning a sustainable living. While the Biome Trust has done a tremendous job in bringing stakeholders on board to fund the project, the brunt of the expenses is still being borne by individuals and communities. To achieve water security and empower a community, the city of Bangalore must support the “One Million Wells for Bengaluru” initiative whole-heartedly. It remains to be seen whether the Government realizes that funding for this initiative would go a long way in supporting environmental sustainability and paving the way for future generations.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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