Bhovis rebound on back of recharge wells

C Pedhanna has never had it so good. A ‘well-digger’ for the past 20 years, Pedhanna’s life has suddenly transformed; and he owes his good fortune to the insatiable thirst of booming Bengaluru, where groundwater table continues to fall.

Hailing from the Bhovi community, who dig wells for a living, Pedhanna and others like him were staring at a bleak future as their skills were no longer in demand.

But the tide has turned, and Pedhanna is now in demand for digging pits which are used to recharge the groundwater table. Apartments, individual houses, government and educational institutions, parks and many others are increasingly seeking out people like Pedhanna.

“I dug only 1,500 recharge pits last year but in the last six months I have already dug more than 3,000,” says Pedhanna, highlighting the precarious state of groundwater table in Bengaluru.

“I have dug wells in Bengaluru, Andhra Pradesh, Dharwad and Davanagere. Every 20-foot recharge pit fetches us around Rs 25,000. This includes labour cost, cement, jelly, cement rings and other costs.” 

Community members attribute the increase in demand to exploitation of groundwater to cater to the soaring population and less rainfall.

“Many borewells are failing due to falling groundwater table. The demand for water is increasing in Bengaluru. Also, all the lakes in the city are on the verge of vanishing. That’s why people are now approaching us to recharge groundwater,” says Ashok, another well-digger from the community. The method employed by the community hasn’t changed over the years; years of work has only helped them hone their skills.

“I can find out the presence of water underground just by looking at the land,” says Ashok. The community has dug recharge pits across Bengaluru including Sarjapur Road, Hebbal, Hosakerehalli, JP Nagar, Basavanagudi, Sarakki and other places. As prospects are looking up, the community is hopeful of passing the legacy to their children.

“My father did the same job and I took it up after him. Now, my children, despite studying, are planning to continue with the same job. They say this fetches more money and satisfaction than what they gain through corporate world or elsewhere,” says Baavi Gurappa, who been in the profession for the past 50 years.

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