Civic Issues
Heavily dependent on water tankers, residents allege that the water suppliers use that as a bargaining chip to milk them for more money.

Several areas in Bengaluru are facing water shortage and the water mafia seems to be making the best of the situation. In Bellandur, a locality with numerous residential high rises as a result of the booming IT sector, the residents are facing a massive water crisis that is digging deep

into their pockets.

Home to over 1,000 apartment complexes with around 200 units each, the residents depend heavily on water tankers. What’s more, the water suppliers are using this as a bargaining chip to milk more money, residents allege.

According to Sudarshan, a resident of the locality, the tanker water suppliers are now dispatching loads to the highest bidder. Even if an order is placed for a load of water, the supply company diverts the same to another apartment that is willing to pay more, he alleges.

“We have had a few water suppliers whom we contact regularly. When we call for water, we are never sure whether it will be supplied. Someone else would call him and if they agree to a higher price, he diverts the water meant for us to them,” Sudarshan says.

Speaking to TNM, an official with the Department of Mines and Geology says that in the peripheral areas of Bengaluru’s core, the groundwater tables have become drastically low. The department estimates that the water levels have gone below 1,400 ft in several areas like Bellandur, Bommanahalli and the 110 villages in the city’s periphery.

On Friday night, all the sump tanks in JSR Verity Apartments in Bellandur ran dry with not a single drop of water to sustain the more than 150 residents in the complex.

The residents immediately called the tanker water suppliers on their speed dial but to no avail. The suppliers refused to deliver the water unless the residents agreed to the exorbitant rates they demanded. The apartment dwellers, who were paying Rs 550 for 6,000 litres of water, now
had to pay twice as much – Rs 1,200 for one load of water.

Despite agreeing, the water suppliers still refused to deliver the water. “They wanted us to enter into a contract with them, which basically states that we will buy water only from the said supplier and no other supplier and that the water supply agency can increase the rates as and
when they want,” claims Neetu Tandon, a resident of JSR Verity Apartments.

Unlike core areas like CBD, Indiranagar and Koramangala, Bellandur does not have Cauvery water connections and the residents are completely dependent on borewells or tanker water to survive. The residents of one apartment need at least four tankers of water to survive for
the day, which they say is digging deep into their pockets.

“There is an unspoken agreement between the various tanker water suppliers. If we do not agree to the price they quote, they will not deliver water. On Saturday evening, after we agreed to all the terms the water supplier stated, we finally got water after 18 hours. The thing is, most
of the apartments here depend on tanker water. The individual houses have borewells. Sometimes, they too call in for tanker water, maybe when there is a power cut or when their motor malfunctions, and they pay Rs 2,000 for a load. Now the water suppliers want us – the regulars – to also pay that much. We (over 150 residents of JSR Apartments) end up paying Rs 2.5 lakh per month on water. We are also middle class citizens and this is too much,” Neetu laments.

“Many borewells have gone dry. Two out of three borewells have gone dry in Bellandur and water is in demand there. If you see  the pattern, the water tables are very low from Bellandur to Sarjapur. It is only in the areas where the population is lesser that we can find operational
borewells,” she adds.

Pillappa, the owner of Manjunatha Water Suppliers in Bellandur, says that the water supply companies too are trying to stay afloat as there is scarcity. He says that 10 years ago, the borewells were overflowing and there were no water shortage issues.

“The borewells began drying out one by one. See, we have to pay people with borewells to get water from them and in turn sell it to these apartments. When the water levels are low, the cost of pumping water increases. With borewells running dry, we have to go till Sarjapur and sometimes beyond to get water. It costs a lot of money to transport water and we also have to survive,” Pillappa says.

The residents of Bellandur met the local corporator Asha Suresh and the local MLA Aravind Limbavali on Saturday and demanded that the government intervene and ensure that BWSSB supplies water to them regularly at a standardised rate.

“BWSSB is supposed to provide us with water. We want them to supply us Cauvery water in tankers at a standardised rate so that it won’t hurt our pockets. Water is a basic commodity that everyone needs and the government needs to step up,” Neetu says.

Speaking to TNM, corporator Asha Suresh said that she has taken into consideration the demands of the residents. “MLA Aravind Limbavali and I are set to meet the Tanker Water Association members on Monday to discuss the issue. We will finalise something which suits everyone,” she added.