Bengaluru Water Crisis: As Calls For Work-From-Home & Online Classes Grow; City Seeks Viable Solution

Bengaluru Water Crisis: As Calls For Work-From-Home & Online Classes Grow; City Seeks Viable Solution

Bengaluru has 10,955 public borewells, out of which 1,214 have run dry. In another 3,700 borewells, the water level has decreased substantially.

Vishakha SonawaneUpdated: Thursday, March 14, 2024, 09:00 AM IST
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People collect free drinking water from a tanker due to water crisis at Bangarappa Nagar, in Bengaluru, Sunday, March 10, 2024. | PTI

Once known as the city of thousand lakes, Bengaluru now stares at a severe water crisis ahead of a blistering summer. Water woes, which have marred the Karnataka capital in recent years, has nearly brought the city to a screeching halt, with the demand growing for work-from-home and online classes – at least until the onset of the monsoon.

The Silicon Valley of India has attracted lakhs of professionals from across India over the last two decades, owing to the city's lucrative job scene. Many think that the temporary work-from-home option will prompt a chunk of Bengaluru's workforce to move back to their hometowns, thus reducing the pressure and demand for the water in the city.

Tagging Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar and the state's IT-BT and Panchayati Raj Minister, Priyank Kharge, on X, Karnataka Weather (@Bnglrweatherman) posted, "Please instruct corporate offices to give mandatory Work from Home & Online classes for students till June end in Bengaluru due to #BengaluruWaterCrisis Most corporate sector areas are facing severe water shortage in the city but not the traditional residential areas. So it's time to reduce the burden. Even March is going to end on the dry side with no pre monsoon showers in sight as of now."

Citizens' Agenda for Bengaluru stated on X, "Online Classes & Work from Home? If students & employees are allowed to work from home, many will go back to their hometowns, reducing pressure on city!"

What are the affected areas?

Bengaluru map

Bengaluru map | Google Maps

Karnataka has officially declared drought in 223 of 240 taluks. Of these, 196 have been classified as severely affected by drought. In February, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) identified 257 dry spots in the city. Following are the areas that have been affected because of the water crisis.

Bengaluru East Zone: Marathahalli, KR Puram and Ramamurthynagar

Bengaluru West Zone: Rajajinagar 6th Block, Peenya, Bagalgunte and Bapujinagar

Bengaluru North: Devara Jeevanahalli and Vyalikaval

Bengaluru South Zone: HSR Layout, Bommanahalli, Hosakerehalli, Chikkapete and Yelachenahalli

However, residents of the older and planned areas of Bengaluru such as JP Nagar, Jayanagar, Basavangudi, Vijayanagar, Malleswaram and surrounding areas have not reported water issues so far.

What has the Karnataka government done so far?

Bengaluru has 10,955 public borewells, out of which 1,214 have run dry. In another 3,700 borewells, the water level has decreased substantially. Earlier this month, Deputy Chief Minister Shivakumar shared the government's plan to allocate Rs 556 crore to address the city's water woes.

“Water doesn’t belong to any individual; it is for everyone. We are creating a war room. All the officials will try and come up with a solution. We will also fix a common price for water tankers. ₹556 crores have been allocated for water supply," Shivakumar told ANI.

People collect free drinking water from a tanker due to the ongoing water crisis, in Bengaluru, Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

People collect free drinking water from a tanker due to the ongoing water crisis, in Bengaluru, Wednesday, March 13, 2024. | PTI

According to the plan, the government allotted Rs 10 crore to every MLA representing Bengaluru to address the water problem in their constituencies. In addition to this, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has allocated Rs 148 crore, while the BWSSB has designated Rs 128 crore to tackle the issue.

The Karnataka Water Supply and Sewerage Board has prohibited the use of drinking water for non-essential activities like car washing, gardening, construction, water fountains, road construction and maintenance. Failure to comply with this directive will result in a fine of Rs 5,000.

Concerns over suppliers increasing water tanker rates

With the borewells and taps drying up, people have turned towards water tankers to solve their water issues. Due to the rising demand, suppliers have hiked the rates of the water tankers, complaint Bengalureans.

To curb this, The Bengaluru City District Collector KA Dayanand issued a circular fixing the rates for water tankers. According to the circular, the established rates for water tankers for distances up to 5 km from the water tanker location to the target site are Rs 600 for a 6,000-litre water tanker, Rs 700 for an 8,000-litre water tanker and Rs 1,000 for a 12,000-litre water tanker. If the distance falls between 5 and 10 km, the rates increase to Rs 750 for a 6,000-litre water tanker, Rs 850 for an 8,000-litre water tanker and Rs 1,200 for a 12,000-litre water tanker.

Free drinking water being provided through a tanker due to the ongoing water crisis, in Bengaluru, Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

Free drinking water being provided through a tanker due to the ongoing water crisis, in Bengaluru, Wednesday, March 13, 2024. | PTI

What is the solution?

With Bengaluru's estimated population standing around at approximately 1.3 crore, around 10.37 lakh households have the BWSSB water supply connection, according to Bangalore Mirror. Every day, Bengaluru draws approximately 1,450 MLD of Cauvery water from a distance of 100 kilometres, alongside the contribution of around 10,995 borewells, which supply about 400 MLD of water. However, despite this combined effort, the total daily water supply of 1,850 MLS per day still fails to meet the rising demands.

TV Ramachandra, Head of the Centre for Ecological Studies at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), had predicted Bengaluru's current water situation nearly a decade ago and had warned authorities about it. While he maintains that rainwater harvesting is the best option for the water scarcity in the city, Ramachandra listed realistic alternatives to tackle the situation.

"The city receives annual rainfall of 700-850 millimetres, which means we have 15 Thousand Million Cubic Feet (TMC) of rainwater. The city requires 18 TMC of water, which means rainwater would suffice 70 per cent of water demand," Ramachandra told Down To Earth magazine.

"Realistic options in the current crisis situation are: (i) Advocating and ensuring water conservation at all levels (ii) Ensuring tertiary treatment as the city has wastewater treatment capability and filling select dry lakes to facilitate groundwater recharge (iii) Make bureaucrats accountable for the dereliction of the prudent management of natural resources and pushing irresponsible urbanisation (for their short term gains) (iv) The government should constitute think tanks (with experienced experts and not industrialists)," he said.

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