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‘Need to book water tankers two days in advance’: Bengaluru braces for water scarcity, know why India’s tech capital is dry and thirsty

Water tanker merchants also in some sections of Bengaluru are now asking up to Rs 2,000 for a 12,000-litre tanker, up from Rs 1,200 a month ago.

Bengaluru is experiencing a severe water shortage this year, months before peak summer, causing many residents of “India’s Silicon Valley” to ration their water consumption and pay nearly double the regular price to satisfy their daily water demands.

Notably, people in Bengaluru have begun to experience a 24-hour water supply disruption beginning at 6 am on 27th February. According to the reports, the shortage will last until 6 am on 28th February. This is as the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has announced a shutdown to perform vital maintenance and install Unaccounted For Water (UFW) bulk flow meters.

The water shortage is expected to affect several areas in South Bengaluru including BHEL Layout, Nandini Layout, Srinivasa Nagar, Jaimaruthi Nagar, Badavane, Sakamma Layout, Narasimha Swamy Layout, Muneshwara Nagar, Jnana Jyothi Nagar, Jnanaganganagar, Mallathahalli, NGEF Layout and also East and North Bengaluru.

Weak southwest monsoon rains have impacted groundwater levels and reduced water levels in the Cauvery River basin reservoirs that supply the southern Indian city, which is home to over 14 million people and thousands of IT enterprises and start-ups, according to a report. 

This is causing city residents to pay rising water tanker costs even before the peak summer season begins. Water tanker merchants also in some sections of Bengaluru are now asking up to 2,000 rupees ($24.11) for a 12,000-litre tanker, up from 1,200 rupees ($14.47) a month ago.

“We now need to book water tankers two days in advance, my plants are dying and I’m taking alternate-day showers,” said Santhosh C.A., a resident of Horamavu, in north Bengaluru, as quoted by Reuters. “The worry now is that despite paying, the tanker vendors won’t show up due to scarcity of groundwater,” added another Bengaluru resident.

The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), the city’s water supply agency, gets the majority of its water from the Cauvery River, which originates at Talakaveri in Karnataka and flows through neighboring Tamil Nadu before draining into the Bay of Bengal.

In order to shore up its supply in the coming months, the BWSSB has asked authorities for more water from the Cauvery basin.

Explaining the water shortage crisis in Bengaluru a little deeper, one of the Twitter users named Raj Bhagat said that the city of Bengaluru depends on the Cauvery River for water due to its height. “Bengaluru is unofficially a hill station which is located nearly a kilometre above sea level. Being at the top of a ridge line, the city is partly within the Kaveri watershed and partly in Ponnaiyar (Dakshina Pinakini watershed). Being on top, water from elsewhere doesn’t flow through Bengaluru but flows outward from the city. Bengaluru right now depends on the Kaveri River for water supply. Because of its height, Water is pumped for a height of 1000 feet from the river 100km away from the city,” he wrote posting maps in a series of posts on X.

As per Bhagat’s study, Kaveri is overexploited and must be conserved in all sectors (mainly agriculture) in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Any year with normal or below-average rainfall will result in a drought or water crisis, not just in Bengaluru.

Bengaluru is overcrowded given its topography, and growth across the country and within the state must be spread to next-tier cities, which would necessitate expenditures in the same direction.

Probable solutions suggested by BJP MP to the ongoing water problem in the city

Notably, the National President of BJP Yuva Morcha, Tejasvi Surya who is also the MP for Bengaluru South Lok Sabha Constituency commented on the issue and urged the citizens to come together to solve this growing problem of water shortage. “Water shortage in Bengaluru is a result of multiple factors,” he said adding that around 40% of the borewells in the city had dried.

“Bengaluru has 11,000 borewells under the control of BWSSB & a whopping 4.5 lakh private borewells. Of these, close to 40% have either dried up or have precariously low levels of water. Mindless white topping of roads is further reducing the groundwater level in the areas. Unbridled construction, unprecedented migration, deterioration of the lake ecosystem & mindless white topping and concretization of the city preventing adequate recharge, have all contributed to the current water crisis,” he added.

Surya further suggested that the city cannot completely depend upon the Cauvery water and has to make efforts to focus on increasing groundwater levels and sustaining the lake ecosystem. He said that digging borewells and operationalizing the Cauvery Phase 5 project would help the city cope with the problem of water shortage.

He further highlighted the grave discrepancy between the demand and supply which has caused the surge in the water crisis in India’s tech capital.

“In the period between 2017 & 2024, while the supply of Cauvery has remained at 1450 MLD, the demand has drastically increased at unprecedented levels. More than 1.5 lakh new water connections, including to large apartments, have come up within this period itself,” the BJP MP pointed out.

“To add to the current crisis, water tankers which were earlier available for Rs 700- Rs 800 per tanker, are now being sold at Rs 2000- Rs 3000 per tanker. Government must provide water to low-income areas for free and cap the prices of tankers for other areas,” the BJP leader added.

“Bengaluru’s population was slated to touch 1.5 crore by 2030 to BWSSB estimates. However, we have breached this mark in 2024 itself. Therefore, our efforts to safeguard the city’s water requirements must be extremely aggressive with practical targets. What was once the city of 1000 lakes, parks, and rivers like Vrishabhavati and Arkavathi, now stares at a bleak future. This is the time to wake up, avoid petty political tussles, and address this issue in unison on a war footing,” he said in a post on X on 26th February.

Cauvery water dispute

It is important to note that the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been fighting for a long time over the supply of Cauvery water. This long-running issue, known as the Cauvery water dispute, has its roots in past agreements and competing water-related demands.

On 16th February 2018, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision that reduced Karnataka’s yearly water releases from 192 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) to 177.25 TMC. This decision also resulted in a decrease in Tamil Nadu’s allocation of water.

Following the court’s directions, the Indian government established the Cauvery Water Management Authority on 1st June 2018, to oversee the implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Recently on 14th August 2023, the Tamil Nadu government petitioned the Supreme Court for its involvement in forcing Karnataka to immediately release 24,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs) of water from its reservoirs. Tamil Nadu petitioned the Court to direct Karnataka to deliver 36.76 TMC of water by September 2023, as mandated by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s (CWDT) final verdict in 2007.

Karnataka claimed that a drop in rainfall in the Cauvery catchment area, which includes parts of Kerala, caused insufficient inflow into its reservoirs. The state CM then emphasized that historically, whenever there was excess water in the reservoirs, Karnataka freely donated it to Tamil Nadu. However, this year’s poor weather has prevented Karnataka from fulfilling its goal.

On 18th September, the Cauvery Water Management Authority reaffirmed the requirement for Karnataka to continue releasing 5,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water to Tamil Nadu for 15 days, following an earlier order given by the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee on 12th September.

Several protests were reportedly carried out by various organizations in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The detailed reports of the same can be read here.

Bengaluru to implement new property tax system from April 1

Earlier, it was reported how the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s guideline value-based property tax, which is set to take effect on the 1st of April, would impose an additional cost on landlords who have rented out their houses for residential and commercial purposes in the city of Bengaluru.

This significant increase in property tax values is anticipated to raise rents for tenants who are already paying higher prices for renting. The new tax system requires rented-out properties to pay twice the property tax as property occupied by owners themselves. Additionally, tariffs have been increased 3-5 times for different commercial structures.

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