BENGALURU: With summer around the corner, residents across neighbourhoods are anxious about water shortage. Their borewells are drying up, but the corporation's plan to counter this is to drill some more.
Commissioner of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Pallike, N Manjunath Prasad, says, “First preference is drilling borewells” to tide over water shortage. The BBMP Budget has given corporators in-charge of 132 core wards Rs 25 lakh each for this and to those in charge of the 66 outer wards, Rs 40 lakh each. He adds, "If borewells do not help, BWSSB will supply water tankers.” BBMP's Engineer-in-Chief MR Venkatesh says that the corporation plans to get through this season by digging one borewell per ward.
The corporators demand borewells every summer, says BWSSB Chairman Tushar Girinath. "We have received 7,000 borewells from the BBMP for maintenance, out of which 1,000 of them are not working," he says.
Water conservation experts and residents are flummoxed. While the experts say that the corporation should instead invest in digging more recharge wells, residents ask what is the point of drilling more borewells when their private wells are failing.
Janet Yegneswaran, the founder of Trees for Free and a member of Koramangala RWA, says, "Though a majority of the borewells owned by people here have dried up, more are being dug up in every corner."
M Chandrappa, the area corporator, says that he has no concrete plan to manage water shortage, but tentatively it involves more borewells and tankers. "We have just drilled a borewell. If that is not sufficient, we will dig another and if that's not enough, we will hire tankers," he says, adding, "We have Rs 10 lakh remaining from the money we received and will decide what to do with it the summer.” Similar is the story in neighbourhoods such as Ejipura and Jayanagar. Prathap Singh from Ejipura RWA says, "Borewells have been drying up.
People here are dependent on Cauvery water and tankers." Meanwhile their corporator, T Ramachandra, denies it. "We currently have around 100 feet of water in our borewell," he says. Residents in Jayanagar are also facing water shortage because they receive Cauvery water only twice a week. Harish, RWA president of Jayanagar, says that his area corporator is also counting on borewells.
Vishwanath S, water conservationist, says that one million recharge wells need to be dug up to help recharge the borewells. “There is less than 5,000 recharge wells by the BBMP,” he says.
Borewells are sucking city dry
Based on a study done by The Government of India’s Central Groundwater Board (CGWB), with Karnataka having a high dependence on groundwater, 26 per cent of the area is either over exploited or under critical category. The study report reads: “(In Bengaluru) In recent years, due to haphazard urbanisation, exponential growth in population and industrial units, demand for water has resulted in indiscriminate drilling of bore wells by individual households, business establishments and industries.
This has resulted in depletion of ground water levels and over exploitation of the ground water resources in the district.” BWSSB 2010 report also states that South and West zones have the highest number of borewells. Approximately 40 new borewells are drilled every day in regions covered by BWSSB and the total number of bore wells in the whole of BBMP region is much larger.
Two stories of hope
There are people in the city who have managed to restore watertables through rainwater harvesting and intelligent use of water. AR Shivakumar, the Principal Scientific Officer of Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology and who guided the framing of BWSSB's rainwater harvesting policy, says, he has not been dependent on Cauvery water supply for the last 23 years. His family has been managing by reusing and recycling rainwater. “Toilet flushes use lot of water.
So, we reuse the soapy water used for washing clothes,” he says. R Balasubramaniam, a retired electrical engineer, owns an open well at his residence in Vidyaranyapuram. He and his family used to depend on the well and the Bommasandra Lake for water supply, for nearly seven years. The city's changing climate and needs dried up both his water sources. He then decided to harvest rainwater to recharge the groundwater table.