Water shortage adds to COVID-19 lockdown woes in Bengaluru

Amina Begum, a labour camp resident, keeps seeing images of the hygiene rules to be followed to prevent contracting COVID-19. But she is scared that her camp is at risk, as there is now not even enough water to bathe. “How can we keep washing hands multiple times a day?” she asked.

The focus of relief measures with respect to migrant workers and the urban poor is on providing food. But severe water shortage, especially in areas not serviced by piped water, has forced people to turn to tankers.

“We used to buy water every week. But footing the bill has become difficult. The water supplied by the civic body in tankers is insufficient for all the houses in our locality,” said Ramakrishna, a carpenter from Balagere village, near Panathur.

The cost of a tanker of 6,000 litres is in the range of ₹750 to ₹900, and a tanker of 12,000 litres costs ₹1,300 to ₹1,500 — a marginal increase from the past few months.

Ramesh Reddy, a water tanker businessman from Marathahalli, attributed the rise in prices to the summer and not the lockdown. “Actually, our business has gone down. People seem to be cutting down on their water consumption and are not buying volumes as before, even in apartments,” he said.

The most severely hit are migrant labour camps. Landlords supply water in drums to each house every weekend. The rent includes the supply of water and electricity. But with tenants not being able to pay rent in April, supply has become irregular.

Nasreen Bi, a resident of a labour camp in Kariyammana Agrahara, said that while they were somehow arranging potable water through either water ATMs or the largesse of water tanker drivers, who let them take a pot of water once in a while, there was a severe shortage of water for other household purposes. “Some of us pooled in money and tried to buy water from tankers. But most of us have now run out of money,” she said.

Vinay Sreenivasa from Naavu Bharateeyaru said the crux of the problem was that both the government and the civil society had assumed the needs of the poor and tried to serve them, without even asking them what they were.

Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, who is in charge of distribution of ration kits, said the civic body has continued to provide water in tankers to 110 villages, as was the case before the lockdown, but there was no programme to provide water to migrant labourers in camps. “We will look into supplying water to camps as well. Anywhere there is a need for water, we will, if contacted, provide it,” he said.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 7:10:52 PM |

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