Recently an activist alleged that more than 10 illegal borewells have been dug over the last week on the Muthanallur lakebed alone, which sustains a whole village.

Bluru water shortage pushing private tankers to drill in rural areas Activists
news Water shortage Monday, March 11, 2019 - 16:34

As parts of Bengaluru face an acute water crisis and private water suppliers continue to take advantage of residents’ dependence on them, another problem has surfaced. Activists are claiming that the increasing demand on these water tank operators has lead to illegal borewells being dug in rural areas, sapping an important water source for surrounding villages.

In areas along the IT corridor, such as Whitefield, Marathalli and Bellandur, the Cauvery Water supply has been scant and irregular in recent days. But activists pointed out on Monday that more than 10 illegal borewells have been dug in the past week in a lakebed in Anekal off Sarjapur Road.

“In Muthanallur village in Anekal, we have a huge lake. And next to the lake, a lot of people are digging borewells in the buffer zone of the lake itself. They are even taking power connections under the non-commercial category but using it for commercial supply of water,” said Major Santosh, a former Army officer and an activist.

According to Santosh, permission is required from the Deputy Commissioner (Bangalore) Urban, and the local panchayat is responsible for stopping illegal activities.

“With this, the whole lake water will be pumped out through these tankers. A lot of villagers are dependent on the lake for agricultural and domestic use. They will be soon left without water if this continues. We have approached the local government offices but have not received any response. Tomorrow we will go to the tahsildar’s office asking him to visit the spot.”

An official at the Bengaluru Urban’s DC office told TNM that the Anekal taluk tahsildar Mahadevapaiah is the concerned authority. Mahadevaiah or Manjunath, the Special Tahsildar, could not be reached for comment.

Problem and the solution

While there are specific laws and regulations put in place to check on borewell drilling in times of depleting groundwater tables, residents and activists allege there is hardly any coercive action against offenders aggravating the problem.

A notification in December 2012, under the Karnataka Groundwater (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Act, 2011 had made it mandatory for every borewell to be registered in the city. The same notification said that non-compliance will lead to a penalty of Rs 10,000 and/or imprisonment of three years.

Official studies by the state Mines and Geology Department in 2015 estimated that the withdrawal of groundwater (341 millions liters per day or MLD) in the city is four times more than what is recharged (90 MLD).

“Drilling water from a lakebed is nothing short of insane. This will reduce the water table in an area which is a prime recharge zone and it’s going to take that much extra amount of time to recharge and replenish the water table,” said Veena Srinivasan, programme leader for water, land and society at Centre for Environment and Development at ATREE Bengaluru.

“Water tankers, to begin with, are not a smart way of dealing with water supply. Drilling at the bottom of the lakebed is problematic and illegal. How are these people doing it? In private land, the issue is less problematic as there is a limit to how much water can be extracted.”

Veena suggested three ways of dealing with the present water crisis.

“In our city, water efficiency is very bad. Lately, I visited many institutional campuses, there is a lot of artificial lawn spaces which require garden hoses. So increasing tree cover rather than ornamental plants can solve this problem. With indoor water usage, there has to be better efficiency and all the wastewater has to be dealt with. Right now, wastewater is going through the city and stinking up everything before foaming and frothing in Bellandur. With this scale of urbanisation and decreasing water tables, there has to be a sensible use of wastewater. The third step has to be moving to the culture of open wells given Bengaluru has an underlying hard rock aquifer, so groundwater storage is very small compared to gangetic plains.”