Summer in, Tankers out

Summer in, Tankers out

Water tankers rule the roost on city outskirts. People are forced to buy water as BWSSB is yet to cover the entire city.

Summer is here and so is the demand for water tankers in the city. This unregulated business in the city has been flourishing ever since 8 city municipal councils (CMCs), one town municipal council (TMC) and 110 villages were brought under Bruhat Bengaluru Mahangara Palike (BBMP)in 2007.

Most apartments mushrooming on city outskirts have no water supplied by Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB). According to officials, BWSSB despite having Cauvery water being supplied to over 9 lakh consumers, the city still falls short of the requirement which is largely fulfilled by private water tankers.

Bhushan Iyer, a resident of Springfields Apartments located on Sarjapura Road says for the 550 odd apartments, they are spending nearly Rs 1 crore per year only for water.

Apartments that have come up in East Bengaluru like Whitefield, Mahadevapura, KR Puram, Marathhalli, Sarjapura Road, Yelahanka New Town, Kengeri satellite town among several other areas.  

"For the past 13 years, there is always a water tanker parked outside our apartment and constantly filling our sump in the apartment. We have been asking BWSSB to lay the pipeline for the past many years and I think some work is going at the moment," Iyer added.

Water tankers and borewells go hand in hand for a thriving water mafia business in the city. Areas on city outskirts like Whitefield, Hoodi, KR Puram, Mahadevapura and Doddanekundi,  Mahadevapura, Dasarahalli, Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Byatarayanapura and Bommanahalli who mostly depend on borewell and treated water.  

Indiscriminate Sinking of borewells

 Private tanker owners include the local leaders have been indiscriminately sinking borewells in the city, which has reduced the groundwater level to an alarming state.

In Doddanekundi on 8th cross road, there are nearly 22 borewells sunk, a local resident, Sandeep S says that with every new borewell, the water output has become scarce.

Arun, the owner of Manjuath Water Supplying Agency in Mahadevapura zone, says that most tankers have more than one borewells from where they draw water. He himself owns two borewells.  

Not only this, even water bodies such as lakes are a source for tankers. A slew of water tankers plying one after the other is visible if one goes near Sadaramangala lake at Kodigehalli in Krishnarajapuram. Here, the water level of the lake depleted rapidly as private water tankers illegally drew water from the lake and sold to the other parts of the city. When the nearby residents raised an alarm about this, the tankers stopped drawing water directly from the lake. However, "The issue still persists. The only change is that these tankers have sink borewells in and around the lake and are drawing water from them," said Sunil Malapat, a resident of Prestige Shantiniketan, apartment.

Unregulated Business

Veena Srinivasan, a fellow at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment says, about 80-90% of commercial and industrial usage of water drawn from borewells is going unregulated. "There is absolutely no monitoring or regulation to check on the number of borewells dug either for commercial or industrial purposes," she added.

To regulate the borewell sinking, the government was forced to come up with a law to protect groundwater sources and it was only in 2011 that the Karnataka Ground Water (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Act was passed and subsequently the rules were framed creating Groundwater authority and directorate.

Four lakh borewells

Experts say, there are more than 4 lakh borewells in the city of which just around 1 lakh are registered the authority which includes private and government. Till date, the authority has received just around 10,930 application of which only 3,846 application have been permitted to sink borewells. Most of these borewells catering to the water tanker business.

Although BBMP did not have the consolidated figures on the number of trade licenses issued to private water tankers in the city, a BBMP official said there could be more than 150 water tankers plying the city. Water to these tankers are mainly filled through borewells and sometimes to fulfil the demand, water is also drawn from lakes having water compromising on the quality of water.

The Directorate of Groundwater has been receiving complaints from residents in the city about the sinking of borewell in residential areas and private tankers filling water from there.

Expensive

For independent houses living in Hemmigepura ward on Mysore Road, a duplex house would call in for a tanker at least 8-9 times a month during summer at a cost of Rs 800 per tanker, said a resident. This would amount spending Rs 6,400 in a month just for water by a family. "Here, even the quality of water is bad and we rely on it as we do not an option," he said.

A resident of Garudacharpalya also said: "The heat of the summer has not yet set in. Otherwise, they (water tankers) would charge according to their whims and fancies. One refill from a tanker costs up to Rs 1,000 and increases further during summer."

Similar is the case with the residents of Brigade Metropolis in Whitefield where residents are largely dependent on water tankers. "This houses about 1,700 and odd flats and we come here to fill in just the swimming pool water twice in a day," said Shivamurthy, water tanker operator for the complex.

Politics

"Many of these corporators run tankers by drawing water through borewells and they are deliberately delaying the pipeline work to supply water in 110 villages as it will affect their money-making business," says V K Srivatsa, a resident of Hemmigepura.

In reaction to this, Shwetha Vijayakumar (BJP) said, "This problem is because there are direct orders from the office of K J George saying that only areas with Congress ruling should get proper water supply and not others."

A resident of Doddanekundi complained that some corporators deliberately do not allow water supply. "A few BBMP corporators do not allow the valve-men to allow water for us and we are forced to depend on tankers," she said.

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