Ilkal, nestled in the chronically drought prone belts of Bagalakote district of North Karnataka, has registered a commendable and historical feat in India’s drinking water supply system: It has become the country’s first city to get fully covered under the ambitious “24x7 water supply” system.
With this remarkable achievement, a much needed socio-economic transformation has begun, in both the quality of life of the city’s residents, and positive behavioural changes among the stakeholders, in terms of addressing the prolonged and critical issues of hygiene and sanitation. These issues have direct and indirect adverse impacts on both individuals and societal progress.
Today, the residents of Ilkal city stand relieved of all the problems they were facing due to the highly inadequate and problematic water supply until recently.
Dry taps, long queues at public borewells and open wells, or a tanker transporting water are things of the past here. The women, men and children hurrying to attend their respective chores feel extremely lucky to have pure water flowing through their their taps, round-the-clock. They need not wait for two or three days, or buy water from private water-traders for their daily needs.
One of the most notable resultant benefits of the project is evidently seen in the sharp decline in open defecation, with families voluntarily constructing individual household toilets, which goes in tune with the Swachh Bharat mission.
However, this change has come not just like that, but over a period of comprehensive and meticulous planning, efficient execution of planned works and equally efficient operation and maintenance of each and every component devised in the project, “24x7 Water Supply System To Ilkal City”, taken up under the North Karnataka Urban Sector Investment Programme (NKUSIP), says Shivanand Kapashi, former Executive Director of the programme.
Ilkal, a Grade-II city municipality spread over 12.98 sq km and 31 wards, is a well-known manufacturing centre of handloom sarees (marketed with the brand name “Ilkal Saree”) providing employment opportunities to more than 20,000 skilled workers. It is also home to the famous red granite stones, and is situated on the Solapur-Chitradurga National Highway no. 50, about 50 km away from its district headquarter Bagalakote.
The city is the abode of the temple of Shree Vijayamahantesh Swami and his preceptor Shree Gurumahanta Shivayogishwara Swami, besides the monuments of Hazarath Syed Murtuza-Shah-Khadri on the city’s eastern side.
Pre-24x7 water supply scenario
What preceded the present 24x7 water supply system was highly insufficient water supply ranging over a brief duration of hardly one or two hours, once in two or three days, covering around 57% of the total population living in constructed residential areas. Although situated under the nose of Krishna river, which flows just 28 km away from the city, the situation was appalling throughout the year and the woes of the residents would only manifest in various degrees during summers.
The city was getting only 5.21 MLD of potable water from infiltration wells, ground water and the river, even as management of water supply due to shortage of water availability from the existing sources had become difficult. Compounding the problem was inadequate storage capacity, leakages in distribution network and the main feeder, lack of unscientific O&M system and care-free attitude towards economic and efficient use of water by consumers in the absence of metering system. Around 45% of the precious water was being wasted, a matter of serious concern for the fast-growing city.
This precarious situation was marked by factors which are critical for the survival and development of individuals and the society at large (acute water scarcity, lack of access to pure drinking water, poor sanitation, hygiene conditions). The demographics on one side, and the availability of a major source of water like the Almatti dam across Krishna River on the other side turned out to be a blessing-in-disguise for the residents of the city.
The state government selected Ilkal along with 13 other towns and cities in the north Karnataka region to improve water access to households. Under Asian Development Bank (ADB) funding through the NKUISIP, the aim was to improve the situation and deliver bulk water and ensure that every single household in the city had direct access to a constant supply of continuous and safe water at full pressure at all times of the day.
In fact, the government selected Ilkal as a laboratory to experiment and demonstrate that 24x7 water supply was achievable even in a city gripped with several hostile factors. This approach also marked a paradigm shift in the drinking water supply plans and schemes of the government.
The water supply system for the city dates back to 1950, when Ilkal Nalla served as its source of water, leading to the construction of the first organised water supply scheme in 2000. This was essentially an augmentation scheme with surface water from the backwaters of Narayanpur dam, with Krishna River as a source. Headworks at Dhannur village was completed, and was commissioned by the Karnataka Urban Water Supply & Drainage Board to supply water to three urban local bodies (ULBs) — Hunagund, Ilkal and Kushtagi. This was followed by a second improvement scheme to facilitate a permanent solution, with headworks at Almatti dam, with an increased capacity of the treatment plant by 25.25 MLD, and transmission and storage capacities as well, at the cost of Rs.23.70 crore.
Subsequently, with the KUWS&DB committing to a bulk supply of 17.70 MLD at GSLR and ESRs as against the demand of 135 LPCD, the proposal for 24x7 water supply project was cemented.
A detailed project report followed a thorough study and preparation of a city level investment plan, feasibility aspects, need for infrastructure development, assessment of various socio-economic indicators and issues of environmental impacts, rehabilitation, etc. The project was designed considering the approved projected population of the city for the year 2041, and also to bring down the water losses due to unaccounted flow from 45% to within 20%.
Finally, the project was conceived, and it was decided that it would be implemented at an initial estimated cost of Rs.19.79 crore, with the assistance of the Project Consultant SNC Lavalin Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. After a thorough evaluation of various modes, it was decided that the project would be implemented on a Performance Based Management Contract (PBMC) mode, which was most suitable for the 24x7 water supply system.
Works under 24x7 water supply
The KUWS&DB has improved the bulk water supply system using water from the Almatti dam to Hunagund, Ilkal and Kushtagi and nearby villages under the Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small & Medium Towns (UIDSSMT).
A pumping plant of 580 HP VT pumps (one working and one standby) was installed at Jack Well to lift raw water to 25.25 MLD-capacity Water Treatment Plant at Hunagund.
Furthermore, the pure water from the sump located at the Inspection Bungalow in Ilkal, about 10 Km from the WTP, is pumped to 6 Elevated Service Reservoirs (ESR) at different locations in five zones covering the entire city and population of the city through 150 HP centrifugal pump set (one working and one standby.) Subsequently, water is supplied to every household in Ilkal city through a total distribution length of 124 km.
As fire-fighting to deal with accidental fires is an integral and important component of water supply system, the project design has taken care of installing 13 fire hydrants at all vulnerable points of the city with the assistance of Karnataka State Fire & Emergency Services.
An alternative 320 KVA diesel generator set is being installed as an alternative source of power connection.
The 24x7 water supply system has made notable positive impacts on the lives of stakeholders in the field of education, health and women’s empowerment. A remarkable impact was witnessed in student enrollment in schools. According to the Education Department, a total of 5,318 students were enrolled into 1st to 10th Standards during 2010, which boosted up to 7,162 in 2016, which marked an increase of 15%.
Given that impure water has been one of the major causes for waterborne diseases haunting the communities in urban and rural areas, and shortage of water is directly proportional to hygiene conditions, supply of pure water round-the-clock has helped in bringing down incidences of waterborne diseases significantly from 2,711 during 2011 to 1,741 in 2016.
The community development programmes aimed at community participation were initiated by creating awareness about the importance and benefits of the continuous water supply, helped in not only winning the trust of the local community, but also in leading the hitherto unreached women towards socio-economic empowerment. The initiatives and motivational programmes helped in organising women by forming Self Help Groups, which went up from just 21 (270 members) in 2010 to 53 SHGs consisting of as many as 822 members.
Due to assured water, many families from nearby villages are shifting to Ilkal, the city which is fast growing and providing employment opportunities to construction labourers and in various other allied activities. Migration of native workers to other towns and cities has considerably reduced, but a proper assessment needs to be carried out in this regard, says PR Nelson, Team Leader of SNC Lavlin Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd.
“The successful implementation of 24x7 water supply project covering entire (100%) population of Ilkal City Municipality has implicit social and economic benefits, even as it redefines the tenets of water supply system in the country. With its commissioning, the 24x7 water supply project as ensured ‘Any Time Water’ to every household and entire population of Ilkal city. It is worth emulating in other towns and cities of the country,” Shivanand Kapashi, former Executive Director, NKUSIP said.