Private water tankers on almost every street is an ubiquitous phenomenon

Big villas, multi-storeyed apartment complexes, IT offices and shopping malls: that is Whitefield for you. But a closer look at the IT corridor will bring to light the acute water crisis that the residents in the locality face.

The stark ‘water divide’ between the haves and have-nots is perhaps one of the area’s salient problems. While people living in the apartments and villas consume high quantities of water – not least to top up their swimming pools – the residents of the many villages here consume less, but pay more for this basic resource.

Borewells having been exploited thoroughly, many have ceased to yield water, say residents. And, the private water tanker business is a booming business in this area. The private water tanker at the end of almost every street is a ubiquitous phenomenon here, and people who can least afford it end up having to shell out big bucks for water.

Take for instance Sujatamma (30), a domestic worker and resident of Ramagondanahalli. She spends a minimum of Rs. 1,500 a month on water for a family of four. “We get water only three times a week and although we try to store as much water as we can, we always run out quickly and are forced to buy from tankers. We spend a good portion of our income on water,” she says.

Sujatamma has to also supplement the tanker water with packaged or bottled water for drinking and cooking. “The quality of the water that we buy from the private water tanker is very bad. My children have fallen sick when they drink that water, so we are forced to buy bottled water.”

While homes like Sujatamma’s consume less than 200 litres of water per day, people living in flats and villas in Whitefield consume around 1,000-1,500 litres on an average, by informed estimates. Rajkumar Pahari, an IT employee and a resident of Kadugodi, said that 250 homes in his apartment consume around 2.5 lakh litres of water per day. “As we do not have BWSSB connections, our main source of water is borewell water. But over the past few years the borewells are going dry and even though we are digging over 1,000 ft., it is difficult to get water.”

Explaining the gravity of the issue, he said, “Two years ago when I moved into the area, I did not know that the water shortage would be so severe.”

Need of the hour

Meanwhile, residents and resident welfare associations have come to the realisation that water conservation is the need of the hour.

Says Vallari Shah, a resident of Whitefield, “There is a need to focus on rainwater harvesting and reuse of grey water and reduce water consumption.”

A Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) official said that 40 per cent of Whitefield would receive water under the II Stage of the IV Phase of the Cauvery project. “However, the 110 villages that were incorporated into the city limits will not get water under the Cauvery project,” the source admitted.

Even as Section 72 A of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage (Amendment) Act 2011 mandates that every building on a site of 2,400 sq. ft and above, as well as the owner who proposes to construct a building on a site 1,200 sq. ft or above, have a RWH facility for storage or groundwater recharge, BWSSB officials said that the ground realties are far from what is on paper. “The Whitefield area is a classic example of unplanned revenue pockets. The houses do not have space for any of the basic amenities such as sanitary lines and water supply pipelines, leave alone RWH.”

The official also conceded that even though borewell registration was made compulsory under the Karnataka Groundwater (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Act, 2011, digging illegal borewells in the peripheries of the city continues to take place.

K.M. Najeeb, Regional Director, Central Ground Water Board, pointed out that the overexploitation of water, particularly on the peripheries of the city, has led to an emergency situation. “The water level is falling as it is overexploited. The borewell technology, which was once considered a boon, is becoming a bane. In a span of about 20 years, the water level in Whitefield has fallen from 5-8 metres below the ground level to 30 metres.”

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