Thirsty City: With little help from CMC, residents pay Re 1 per pot
Any new visitor to K R Puram, one of the oldest suburbs in the City’s eastern circuit, would get a feel of it. Long-time residents, however, have resigned themselves to it with their sense of exasperation bordering on acute helplessness.
You guessed it right, we are talking about K R Puram’s perpetual water crisis. Far more than its hanging bridge, a multilingual and dense populace, and a haphazard urban planning, K R Puram is known for its parchedness.
Very few localities in K R Puram get a modest supply of water through the CMC connections, a handful have to manage with erratic running taps, but most have no supply at all!
In reality, every chat here begins and ends with how one copes without water. Now, such discussions have become more common.
The fast depletion of the groundwater level is making matters worse - just 150 out of more than 800 borewells in K R Puram yield water.
And this has forced the residents to increasingly depend on private water tankers - an option not many can afford to choose.
Ramakka, a resident of Ambedkar Colony, K R Puram, doesn’t mince words. Her household doesn’t have a CMC water connection. She collects water from a public tap that comes alive only once a fortnight. What about BWSSB tankers? She has never seen them. “May be they supply water, but we don’t get it.”
Nagamma, another resident, nods in unison. “We have nothing to do but to toil,” is her reply.
A few lanes away lies Kumbar Street where the situation is a tad better as Mohammad Saleem, a scrap dealer, says a BWSSB tanker has been supplying water every two-three days. “But as the summer progresses, there will be serious trouble,” he fears.
M Krishnappa, a bar bender from Old Police Station Road, has been living in the locality since his birth. “Times have changed. With the increase in population, living here has become a daily ordeal,” he says.
According to Krishnappa, the supply of water through the BWSSB tankers is not only erratic but also highly “discriminating.” Street wars have become the order of the day. Only a few get water whereas others have to just queue up.
Another resident Gowramma goes bitter. “Only the lucky ones get water. You have to strike a deal with the BWSSB personnel,” she groaned. Somesh M, a sales executive from Nethravathi Layout, is also upset. His is one of the worst-affected areas.
Cut to Devasandra Main Road. Arguably the worst-affected locality in K R Puram, Devasandra depicts Bangalore’s darkest side. Most lanes in Devasandra have no CMC water connection. Here, those who have built sumps have become enterprising. They buy water through private tankers before reselling it by pots - each for Re one. Six pots come at Rs five. So, a sump with 6,000 litres of water can fetch about Rs 1,000, not bad as a tanker comes for Rs 300 to 800.
At Annayyappa Layout, Krishnamma, who runs a small eatery, talks about an empty drum. “How do I run my business,” she asks.
Now Udaya Nagar, A Narayanapura. Ram, a contractor, says the CMC tap at his house has been lying still for the last eight months! At the house of G Venkatesh on Chikka Subbanna Street, the tap came alive four months ago. No borewell, no BWSSB tanker, no CMC connection.
Apart from their water woes, the residents also agree on another issue - the indifference of their elected representatives.
Dilshad, a housewife from Devasandra Main Road, is agitated. She says if she happens to meet any elected representative, she will teach him a lesson or two. “Unko aise aise sawalan kartyun ke yaad rakhna (I’ll pose uncomfortable questions to them),” she says.
But the hapless residents have something to cheer for. They drink only packaged water, a 20-litre can of which comes for Rs 25! Deva, who runs a shop of packaged water, says the demand is increasing. Every day, he sells about 70 cans, up from 40 in non-summer days.
The citizens’ ordeal and the resultant desperation are perhaps best depicted by a little girl’s action.
Despite struggling to carry a small pot of water, she doesn’t give up. A small pot means a lot to her, a lot!
The residents of K R Puram may be facing one of the worst water crises, but their travails have also something that augurs well for the country’s social fabric.
For the Hindus and the Muslims of K N Ramaiah Layout, the Aiyyappa Swamy Temple is a place of succour. The tap at the temple caters to their needs and its doors are open for everyone. “We don't charge anything for it. We cannot deny water when people need it,” Neela Vinodan, a member of the temple’s managing committee, said.
For Akhtar Jan, who lives in a lane adjacent to the temple, “it's a big relief”. “Had they refused us (fetch water), we would have been in dire straits,” she said.