In a bid to check unauthorised drilling of borewells in Bengaluru city, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) is planning to launch an initiative to identify unregistered borewells by visiting individual houses.
Bengaluru city is suffering from acute water shortage and fast depleting groundwater levels. Three months ago, the Karnataka government made it mandatory to have authorisation to dig wells or borewells in Bengaluru and 11 other districts of the state. The directive applies to Bengaluru east, north and southern areas and 32 taluks spread over the 11 districts. The government had also decided to penalise owners of illegal wells and borewells in these areas by disconnecting their electricity supply.
The new rule makes it mandatory for all existing borewell owners as well as those drilling new borewells or open wells, both for domestic and commercial purposes, to pay a fee and register in a prescribed format. Failure to comply can attract a penalty of up to Rs. 10,000 and/or imprisonment up to three years.
Unaware of the decision, residents continue to drill borewells. An official says, “When the rule was notified, not much was done to publicise it. So, now we are thinking of visiting each and every household.” According to officials, there is a lack of awareness among residents and hence only 100 households from the city have registered so far.
The government notification, dated December 3, 2012, made borewell registration compulsory under the Karnataka Groundwater (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Act, 2011. The notification declared BWSSB as the implementing authority in the city. Existing borewell owners were also given time till March 31 to register.
More than 300 borewells run dry every month in Bengaluru. Of the 172,000 borewells in the city, 13,000 have been drilled by the BWSSB. Nearly 4,000 of these have gone dry, says BWSSB chief engineer Venkataraju.
City bursting at the seams
A study by the department of mines and geology states that over 2.4 million people in Bengaluru face the prospect of severe water shortage in the near future. Going by the growth in population of the city and the water requirement per person per day, the city harbours about 2.2 million more people than those who can be provided piped water supply.
According to official data, the demand for water in Bengaluru is calculated at 140 litres per capita per day (lpcd). For the current population, the requirement works out to 1,342 million litres per day (mld). The supply of water from the Cauvery (Stages I to IV, Phase I) and Arkavathy (Hesarghatta and Tippagondanahalli reservoirs) rivers works out to 975 mld. Conveyance and other losses reduce the effective supply by 30 per cent to 682 mld. The shortage therefore works out to 660 mld.
To meet part of the deficit, BWSSB draws water from 7,000 borewells to supply 35 mld. There are about 105,500 private borewells registered with BWSSB, from which an estimated 106 mld requirement is met. Then there are over 200,000 unregistered private borewells from which another 200 mld is drawn. The total supply from groundwater sources is therefore estimated at 341 mld.
Taken together, the overall supply of water, from the Cauvery river as well as from groundwater sources, to the city is 1,023 mld. On a total demand of 1,342 mld, that still leaves the city with 319 mld less than the requirement or over 2.2 million people without their quota of water.
The mining department’s study shows the total recharge of groundwater from various sources is about 90 mld. Against a withdrawal of 341 mld from the ground, the recharge is 90 mld. In other words, groundwater is overdrawn by a massive 378 per cent.