When taps run dry and tankers begin their tantrums

When taps run dry and tankers begin their tantrums

A borewell being dug inside a graveyard in HSR Layout in Bengaluru on Tuesday. DH Photo/Sudheesha K G

It is a Friday afternoon, the scheduled day for the supply of water in this neighbourhood in Ramamurthy Nagar. A few houses, which are receiving water through the metered connections, have their pumps whirring. The rest, where the taps run dry, are silent.

Venkatappa, who stays near the Manjunath temple in Ramamurthy Nagar, wishes he had the problem of a high water bill. “At least then I would get a regular supply of water through this connection I installed three years back,” he says.

Instead, the sump in his house is dry and he has to shell out Rs 2,000 every month to get the water supplied from the private tankers.

Ramappa, who heads the Resident Welfare Association in Ramamurthy Nagar believes the rampant proliferation of unauthorised connections is to blame for the water shortage in certain localities. “They attach the motor directly to the pipe and suck the water out,” he says.

In this particular locality, which is low-lying with a water bund nearby, the water table is high. But not everybody can afford a borewell.

In other places, the groundwater has already dipped low. “We have a borewell but it only reaches 300 feet. So we get water tankers,” says a couple who has been staying in Ramamurthy Nagar for nearly 40 years. They blame the increase in houses for the water shortage in the area.

In some areas of Ramamurthy Nagar, with groundwater levels dipping below 500 feet in previous summers, many more borewells are set to go dry in the coming months.

“Irregular water supply leaves us with no choice but to depend on private water tankers. We end up paying Rs 700 - 800 per week,” says Sathwik M S, a teacher, who lives in Rajarajeshwari Nagar in West Bengaluru.

Several localities in this area are also facing a water shortage. “The water bed in Rajarajeshwari Nagar is completely gone. This is because of the borewell drilling and rise in a number of apartments here,” says Srikanth V S, the president of the RR Nagar Residents Welfare Association.

Most of the localities in RR Nagar are supposed to receive water at least once a week but according to Srikanth, this water is not fit for consumption. “The pipes are not maintained properly and the water that we get is kind of drainage water,” he says.

Srikanth believes that the willful and deliberate neglect is done for the benefit of the ‘water mafia’ that charges almost double the going rate for a tanker of water.

“When these people (local water suppliers) start bombarding us with fancy rates, then we get people from Kengeri (some seven kms away) to supply us with water,” says Srikanth.

Reportedly, the demand for private water supply from the apartment is so huge and the private suppliers have made so much money, that they have not had the time to paint their names on the trucks they use to supply water.

The story is the same in some areas of Sanjaynagar, where increasingly, irregular water supply has forced many to depend on private water tankers. Vishalakshi, a homemaker who lives in Sanjaynagar, pays about Rs 450 for a tanker of water.

Even as the demand in the area goes up, the borewells in the area have run dry.

The tankers in Sanjaynagar reportedly get their water from nearby Vidyaranyapura, some nine kms away and have hiked the prices by about Rs 350 to 600.

The ubiquitous tankers run by the ‘water mafia’ are only a symptom of a much deeper problem of water supply and use in Bengaluru.

The summer has only begun and as things stand, it seems like the residents are in for dry, troubling months ahead.