‘No water for a month’: Residents in Bengaluru outskirts struggle with acute shortage

Residents of Ramagondanahalli near Whitefield, have not had access to water for almost a month and say neither BBMP nor BWSSB is willing to lend an ear.
‘No water for a month’: Residents in Bengaluru outskirts struggle with acute shortage
‘No water for a month’: Residents in Bengaluru outskirts struggle with acute shortage Image for representation

The monsoon rains have provided a measure of relief to Bengaluru’s severe water shortage but in some areas, there is no respite in sight. In February this year, TNM had reported on Ramagondanahalli, where borewells were being dug rampantly to supply water to the rest of the city. This urban village, situated close to Whitefield, has not received regular water supply for the last year.

Most recently, the area went without water for about a month, only receiving water after daily complaints to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). A kiosk maintained and operated by the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), which provides 20 litres of drinking water at Rs 5, has been “under repair” for over a month. During that time, the only source of water the residents could access was a water tanker that supplied free water to the area.

“The tanker is an unreliable source of water. It comes once a week if we are lucky. Sometimes it's filled, and at other times it carries half the water it usually does,” said a resident who did not want to be named. They are forced to ration the water as they are not sure when the tanker will return. The tanker, carrying around 12,000 litres of water at full capacity, provides water meant to meet the daily needs of around 50 households. That is not nearly enough to cover their needs for a whole week. 

It is also hard to carry the water from the tanker to their houses. “The tanker cannot enter the lane because of its size. They stop near the main road, and we have to carry the drums to the main road, fill it and carry it back to our houses,” said a villager. Another reason the residents are finding it difficult to get a steady supply is the prohibitive cost of tankers.

“One tanker costs Rs 800. How can we afford that?” asked Geeta (name changed). Private water agencies have come under fire for inflating the price of water in the city, with the prices being as high as Rs 2,000 for water from a tanker carrying 12,000 litres of water in certain areas. 

Finding themselves heavily reliant on the tanker provided by BBMP has taken a toll on the residents. “The water supplied by the BBMP isn’t clean. We contracted throat infections after drinking it. Who will pay the hospital bills now? You come to us and ask for votes during elections, but where are you now?” asked Janvi (name changed). 

Getting BBMP or the local leaders to listen to them is not easy. “We complain to BBMP employees every day, but no one responds to us,” says Ganga (name changed). According to the residents, the local leaders who had visited them as part of their election campaigns, 'calling us their gods, praising us, and claiming that they would ensure uninterrupted water supply to the area,' had not paid attention to their complaints either.

Speaking to TNM, Executive Engineer at the BWSSB, Mirza Anwar, said that the implementation of the Cauvery Phase 5 project would solve problems faced by the villagers of Ramagondanahalli. He acknowledged the delays faced by the project and that it would be completed by July. In the absence of the pipeline, BWSSB is alerted by BBMP if the area is to be supplied with water. “The BBMP has control over those areas. When they communicate to us that they need water to be supplied to a certain region, we send our tankers to that area.” He added that he would bring the matter up with the respective BBMP officials to make sure the residents of Ramagondanahalli have uninterrupted access to water.

Empty water tank
Empty water tank

The usual suspects

This is not the first time the BBMP has been questioned regarding this issue. The Karnataka Lokayukta had on June 3, 2023, registered a suo motu case against the BBMP following media reports on the plight of the Ramagondanahalli residents. The Lokayukta said the troubles faced by the residents showed “maladministration in Whitefield, BBMP sub-zone.” Stating that the  BBMP authorities “have an onerous duty to ensure that the required quantity of water is supplied to every resident daily,” the Lokayukta said that the situation had to be rectified immediately.  But more than a year has passed and the situation has only gotten worse. 

The residents largely blame the existence of a cluster of borewells situated inside the village, owned and operated by private agencies and contractors for their ongoing struggles. The cluster, which spans around 1 km, is active throughout the day, pumping water to fill tankers that are then taken to other parts of the city to be sold. The existence of a cartel-like group that controls the availability and cost of water in the city, means the residents hesitate to take them on.

Cauvery Phase 5 aims to tackle water crisis 

For the residents of Ramagondanhalli, the completion of Cauvery Phase 5 is the only way they can be assured of regular water supply. The project, which was originally set to be completed by June, is now on track to be active by July 7, with labour strikes delaying its progress. The project will be implemented to provide water from the Cauvery river to 110 villages in the city in the hopes of reducing groundwater usage in the city. 

The city has, over the years, seen its groundwater levels reducing at an alarming rate owing to the unchecked growth of borewell usage, combined with decreasing rates of rainwater absorption as a result of the rise in concretised areas in the region. The success of the project would mean that Ramagondanahalli and other such villages will finally have access to clean water fit for their daily needs. 

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