As summer sets in, the residents of the city of Bengaluru are once again gearing up to confront the age-old problem of water scarcity. The city is under severe water stress which means that there is an immense shortage of potable water in the city. For more than a century, the state has been involved in the Cauvery water dispute over sharing water resources with the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. This is a very important matter for the state as a major proportion of the state’s drinking and irrigation water needs are satisfied with water from this river. Despite this, there are areas in the city that have a severe water shortage, particularly the ones which do not have piped water supply. These are areas on the outskirts of the city which still rely on bore wells and tankers to satisfy their daily water needs. With the population of the city constantly increasing, the pressure on its water resources is increasing manifold. In 2012, Bengaluru had nine million people. Within the next five years, the population increased to eleven million. The government has recognized this as a serious problem in the city.
In the 1960s, Bengaluru had about 280 lakes and tanks that were the primary water sources for the city. Now, lakes can hardly be seen in the city and the ones that are still seen are in the advanced stages of deterioration. Given that many lakes were once a part of this city, it is ironic that this problem of scarcity of water has gained this magnitude. This is majorly due to human activity. The sad saga of the Bellandur Lake is not unknown to many. There are numerous examples of lakes being covered up to make room for construction of housing complexes. Further, the rapid development of the IT sector has mandated the construction of huge office complexes which demand gallons of water.
Domestic consumption of water has also been on the rise due to the constant migration of people into the city for jobs. All this is creating an unsustainable demand for water in the city, causing several water-related problems. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has acknowledged the results of a survey conducted in 2014 that stated that the city was on the brink of running out of drinking water, much like what happened in Cape Town, South Africa. However, one critical decision by the state government ensured that this problem was kept off the table for the time being. This decision was to divert an additional 10 thousand million cubic feet of water from the Cauvery river to Bangalore to supplement its drinking water needs. This has provided temporary respite, though the water is directed only to areas that have piped water supply.
The areas that do not have piped water supply, however, are facing the brunt. They mainly rely on bore wells and private water suppliers who supply water through tankers to these areas. Given the rapidly increasing temperature and the increasing demand for water, bore wells have very low levels of water, and most of them have even dried up. This leaves only private water suppliers to supply water to these areas. Residents insinuate that these suppliers hoard water restricting their supply so that the price goes up. In January 2018, a 6000-liter tanker was priced at Rs. 600 and a 12000-liter tanker ranged between Rs. 800 to Rs. 1000. Now, the same 6000-liter tanker is charged at Rs. 800 and 12000-litre tanker is priced between Rs. 1300 to Rs. 1400. However, suppliers have countered this by stating that the bore wells from where they pump out water are also on the brink of drying up and thus, there is a severe shortage of supply. Residents of many apartment complexes have resorted to water rationing, where water is being supplied for just four to five hours for each house daily. This situation is going to become even more severe as summer approaches in its full flow.
There have been efforts to make Rain Water Harvesting compulsory for residences in the city. This will go a long way in replenishing the groundwater sources. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has proposed fines for housing complexes that do not harvest rainwater and in 2016, the first set of penalties were imposed. However, the fact that this penalty is shared by all the residents and amounts to about a few hundred rupees per month per household, the residents haven’t been proactive in the installation of systems to harvest rainwater. This is because the cost of installation is much higher than the penalty imposed. Given these constraints, it is becoming difficult for the city to sustain its water needs. While the influx of job seekers cannot be stopped, the pressure on the water resources is mounting to a level that might lead to potable water sources running out completely in the near future. Steps need to be taken at the earliest to prevent the city from dying of thirst.
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