Bengaluru: Water tanker prices soar due to depleting groundwater, residents say BBMP failed them

Areas neighbouring Bengaluru’s tech corridors are complaining of facing acute water shortages with slum settlements in these regions especially bearing the brunt of the crisis.
Water tankers parked outside the filling station
Water tankers parked outside the filling station
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As the city braces itself for yet another scorching summer, Bengaluru finds itself in the grip of an unprecedented water crisis. With dwindling groundwater sources, residents are struggling to meet daily water needs. In response to the severity of the situation, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar made an announcement on March 4 about the government’s decision to take control of private water tankers in Bengaluru. This decision comes amidst escalating concerns over the scarcity of water resources and rising water tanker prices within the city.

The severity of the crisis is particularly acute in Bengaluru's outer regions, where Cauvery water supply has not yet begun. Areas neighbouring Bengaluru’s tech corridors are complaining of facing acute water shortages with slum settlements in these regions especially bearing the brunt of the crisis. However, apartments are not boding well either with borewells running dry and groundwater levels plummeting.

“Population of Bengaluru is increasing every day and Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is not able to catch up with the speed. Ninety five per percent of the population is dependent on tankers and only five percent is being supplied by BBMP. In our area BBMP has failed completely in providing water, we are fully dependent on borewells. There was an emergency meeting held recently where they allocated funds and said more than 260 tankers would supply water but it has not translated on ground yet,” said Varthur Rising’s Jagadish Reddy. He added that they have been facing a water shortage for three years but this year, there has been an acute shortage which began even before the summer set in.

Echoing the same, Whitefield Rising’s Zibi Jamal said, “In Whitefield, the borewells have dried up, so tankers have to bring water from far away which results in a longer turnaround time. For example, what may have taken an hour to fill a 1300 litre tank, now takes three hours because the water is not plentiful. Due to the time taken to deliver, the charges have also increased.”

Private water tankers have become indispensable for residents of areas such as Whitefield, Mahadevapura, Yelahanka and RR Nagar. The cost of a 12,000-litre tanker, which typically ranged between Rs 400-600, has skyrocketed to Rs 800-2,000. Tanker suppliers say the surge in prices is due to the necessity of sourcing water from distant locations which can sometimes be as far as 20-30 kms away due to many borewells in the city having dried up.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Bangalore Apartments’ Federation with Citizen Matters and OpenCity, the average cost of a water tanker in the city is Rs 131 for 1,000 litres of water and Rs 800 for 6000 litres of water. The prices in Electronic city are the cheapest with suppliers charging Rs 100 for 1000 litres and highest being in RR Nagar with Rs 238 for every 1000 litres out of the areas surveyed. Citizens who took the survey also said that while some of them received Cauvery pipeline in 2017, the water supply is yet to begin.

“BAF has found that in many areas where BWSSB supplies water, the supply has become sporadic; it is not as consistent as before, especially in eastern areas. The survey found that there has been a 100% increase in water prices in certain areas. We also found that groundwater supply has been depleting to the point where people have dug up to 1400-1500 feet but have not found underground water,” said Vikram Rai, President of Bangalore Apartments’ Federation.

On February 27, BWSSB had also cut the water supply in various parts of Bengaluru for 24 hours. TNM visited seven of these localities and found that most of these areas received water only twice in a week.

“We were not aware that the supply was cut for 24 hours. We receive water only on Wednesday and Thursday, so the cut would not have impacted us anyway. However, the water being supplied is not enough and we have to call a tanker every other day,” said Nishkala, a resident of MEG layout in KR Pura.

Residents of Jyothi Nagar in HAL also said that they received water only twice weekly but the duration continues to become shorter. “We get water twice weekly, until 4-5 months back, the water would be supplied at least for two hours but since then the duration is being shortened. It has become especially hard now because sometimes the water is supplied for less than an hour,” said a Jyothi Nagar resident, Lenon.

Addressing the press on March 4, Deputy Chief Minister Shivakumar said that measures are being taken to combat the crisis. A dedicated war room has been established to monitor the water situation in real-time, ensuring swift responses to emerging challenges. Furthermore, helplines and grievance centres have been set up across the city to address complaints related to water shortages. “Senior officials and I will personally oversee the situation daily. Providing drinking water to the citizens is the government's responsibility. There is no need to be worried,” he said.

Citizen activists have constantly spoken of the need for making Bengaluru’s tanks and lakes capable of collecting rain water and devising other methods of rain water harvesting. According to them, with effective rain water harvesting measures and recycling of sewage water, the city’s water woes can be eradicated.

“We receive good rainfall every year and Bengaluru requires only 20 TMC of water. If we put our efforts into harvesting this rainwater and not let it drain, we can become a water sufficient city. Unfortunately, due to lakes being dried up intentionally and connecting channels being encroached, the lakes are unable to catch the rainwater efficiently,” Jagadish added.

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