Bengaluru water crisis: BWSSB announces 20% water cut to bulk consumers; identifies areas bearing the brunt 

Companies, hospitals, crematoria & graveyards, schools, railways and airport to take a hit  

By Coovercolly Indresh
Published: Wednesday 13 March 2024

A map of some of the areas of Bengaluru identified by BSWBB that are bearing the brunt of water scarcity. Credit: Tarun Sehgal / CSEA map of some of the areas of Bengaluru identified by BWSSB that are bearing the brunt of water scarcity. Credit: Tarun Sehgal / CSE

The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) announced a significant decision to reduce water supply by 20 per cent to major consumers in Karnataka’s capital on March 12, 2024. These include companies, hospitals, railways and airports.

The decision was taken at a crucial meeting with customers holding large water connections from BWSSB. The meeting was presided over by BWSSB Chairman, V Ram Prasat Manohar.

Effective March 15, the supply of Cauvery water provided by the Board will be gradually decreased, with a reduction ranging from 1 per cent to 20 per cent.

Manohar emphasised that approximately 0.3 million individuals with large water connections in Bengaluru must support the decision in the collective interest of the city’s 14 million residents. 

Previously, the Board has been supplying water to major consumers at rates ranging from 95 per cent to 100 per cent of their allotted quota. However, with the implementation of the reduction measure, a 20 per cent decrease in water supply will now be enforced to mitigate the ongoing water crisis in Bengaluru.

The BWSSB has also issued a comprehensive list detailing the areas most severely impacted by the water scarcity plaguing Bengaluru. A total of 257 areas across four zones in Garden City have been identified as bearing the brunt of the water crisis.

The affected regions include:  

1. Bengaluru South Zone: HSR Layout, Bommanahalli, Hoskerehalli, Chickpet and Yelachenahalli   

2. Bengaluru West Zone: Rajajinagar 6th Block, Peenya, Bagalagunte and Bapujinagar

3. Bengaluru East Zone: KR Puram, Ramamurthy Nagar and Marathahalli

4. Bengaluru North: Devara Jeevanahalli and Vyalikaval

The move comes after Manohar’s recent assurance that Bengaluru’s water needs will be adequately met in the next five months. He had said that despite ongoing challenges, the city’s estimated water requirement for the upcoming period stood at 8 thousand million cubic feet (TMC), which could be comfortably met.  

Manohar outlined that the city currently receives 10,450 ml of water from the Cauvery river. Additionally, the Krishna Raja Sagara reservoir on the river in Mandya district supplies 34 TMC of water. With Bengaluru’s projected requirement for the next five months standing at eight TMC of water, the supply from the Cauvery is deemed sufficient until July.

But with March 12’s announcement, the going has only got tougher for Bengaluru’s people. A Bengalurean consumes 150 litres of water on average every day. This amounts to a total requirement of 200,000 million litres per day (mld) for the city.  

Hardships galore

The March 12 announcement is expected to hit the city hard. Among the major consumers who will be affected are hospitals.

From large medical facilities to smaller clinics, all are grappling with the acute scarcity of water, posing significant obstacles to healthcare delivery.  

In the face of dwindling water reserves, hospitals are resorting to various measures to mitigate the crisis. Some have turned to treated water for flushing toilets, while others are exploring the option of drilling new borewells. However, the reliance on tanker water remains predominant across most hospitals, underscoring the severity of the situation.  

Dr B C Subramanya, the head of a private hospital in Ramamurthy Nagar, sheds light on the dire predicament faced by his hospital, highlighting the staggering daily requirement of 50,000 litres of water.

The only borewell on which the hospital depended has dried up since a month, compelling the hospital to heavily depend on costly tanker water. Though the government fixed charges for tanker water supply, they charge Rs 1,200-1,500 for 6,000 litres of water and could not even supply that on time despite charging more, he added.  

Similarly, another prestigious healthcare institution in Bagalagunte grapples with multiple water sources running dry. With borewells yielding no water and the BWSSB failing to supply, the hospital’s operations hinge solely on tanker water, exacerbating logistical challenges and financial burdens.  

Beyond hospitals, the water scarcity extends its reach to crematoriums, graveyards and cemeteries, compounding the grief of families mourning the loss of their loved ones. With rituals disrupted due to the unavailability of water for bathing the deceased and performing traditional rites, families are left distraught and unable to bid proper farewells to their departed.  

Crematoriums such as Harishchandra Ghat in Rajajinagar, Sumanahalli Crematorium, Wilson Garden and TR Mill Crematorium in Chamarajpet bear the brunt of this shortage, further exacerbating the challenges faced by grieving families.  

With exams and assessments in full swing, schools in Bengaluru are facing a new challenge: Water scarcity. Many borewells on school grounds have run dry, making it difficult to provide adequate water for students and staff during class hours.

“The main issue isn’t drinking water, but water for toilets,” said the principal of a school in Vyalikaval. “Due to the worsening shortage, many schools have resorted to using drums filled with water in toilets instead of relying on running tap water. We’ve requested the government ensure schools receive BWSSB water on a priority basis,” he added.

Another school teacher expressed concern for the next few weeks. The situation is particularly worrying for private schools located in outlying areas, especially the villages incorporated into the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in 2008.

These areas experience severe water shortages. Most lack piped water infrastructure entirely. “The water shortage has struck us suddenly, leaving us dependent on water tankers. Unfortunately, exams and evaluations are ongoing, and we cannot reschedule them,” the teacher said.  

However, preschools, due to their smaller size, are not as severely affected as regular schools. “There’s also a possibility that this crisis could indirectly impact school fees, as the additional costs of dealing with the water shortage may be passed on to parents,” according to the tutor.  

Meanwhile, the BWSSB has taken decisive measures to curb the unnecessary consumption of potable water, including for activities like gardening and car washing.

A BWSSB notification explicitly prohibits the use of potable water for activities such as car washing and watering plants. Under the new directives, individuals found using drinking water for non-essential purposes face a hefty fine of Rs 5,000.

The BWSSB’s notification has sparked apprehension among residents.  

BM Ramesh, a resident of K R Puram in Bengaluru East, cited his reliance on Cauvery water for his household and garden needs due to the absence of alternative water sources.

As ground water remains a shared resource, the absence of individual borewells in his neighbourhood leaves him with no choice but to utilise precious drinking water for his plants, he told this reporter.

A resident of Dodda Bomma, Sandra̧ Vijay Prakash, questioned the process of monitoring usage of drinking water. “Do they have sufficient staff for that? The government should create awareness first for judicious usage of water,” he added.  

In a bid to alleviate the situation, the deadline for registration of water tankers, offered as a temporary solution, has been extended until March 15.

Despite 1,530 private tankers already registered on the BBMP portal, authorities anticipate a surge in registrations as the deadline approaches.

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