File Pic: Navya P K

Bengaluru’s water woes may only get worse this time. Though summer is still three months away, thanks to scanty rainfall, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has already hinted at the city facing acute water crisis coming April.

In fact, for the first time ever, the BWSSB has come up with a contingency plan predicting a bad season ahead. It has already submitted a contingency plan of Rs 75 crore to the State government for taking up water related works for the city.

BWSSB Chairman Tushar Girinath, speaking at a meeting on water issues in Bengaluru convened at Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) council hall on November 18th, briefly explained the BWSSB’s water plan for the city.

Using public borewells, engaging with private water tankers

Girinath said the BWSSB is taking up two measures on priority basis. One, to acquire 7,920 public borewells in Bengaluru’s core and CMC area and ensure that all the borewells are functional. Two, to sign up with private water tankers to supply water to areas that face acute shortage during summer.

“Water Board has acquired 7,992 public borewells in Bengaluru’s core and CMC areas. Since there are complaints of several borewells remaining defunct, we have decided to take up rejuvenation work of these borewells. A list of defunct borewells will be prepared, they will be flushed, new electrical, cable connections will be given, new pumps will be installed in and they all will be made 100 percent functional by January,” he said.

BWSSB Engineer-in-Chief Kemparamaiah told Citizen Matters that while there are 60-70 water tankers under the custody of BWSSB, they may also sign up with private water tankers to provide service to places that do not get water supply despite Cauvery connection. “We have not signed up with them yet. But will do so if the need be. Out of Rs 75 crore fund that we have requested the government to release, around Rs 50 crore will be set aside for maintaining borewells and Rs 25 crore for paying private water tankers,” he said.

It’s going to be a bad summer this time

With the city largely dependent on single source of water - River Cauvery, and the water inflow at KRS already seeing a dip, the BWSSB is predicting a really bad summer this time.   

BWSSB officials say that they have prepared the contingency plan, assuming that they would continue to get 1,350 MLD of Cauvery water everyday.

“The quantity of Cauvery water entitled for Bengaluru is 19 TMC of which the city can survive if we receive 1,350 MLD water (the quantity that the city gets at present). As of now, of 1,350 MLD pumped at T K Halli reservoir, 15 MLD goes to Bidadi and Kanakapura and the quantity that the city gets is 1,335 MLD. There was no rain in October and November. We have no clue if it will rain in December. So obviously the city is likely to face water scarcity, hence the contingency plan,” Tushar Girinath said.

He added that BWSSB will drill new borewells in coming months. “So far, the BWSSB would only maintain borewells, but not drill. But recently, the Water Resources Minister has said that the BWSSB too should spend on drilling new borewells. Hence, we have prepared a tender to drill new borewells which will be floated in December. The drilling work will be taken up in January, February and March to meet the water needs,” he declared.

What for 110 villages?

However, all plans of BWSSB are applicable to only the core and newly added CMC areas. The 110 villages which were added to the erstwhile Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike in 2010 and are part of five BBMP zones are excluded from BWSSB’s water plan and BBMP is responsible to address their water needs.

“We are yet to provide water and sewage network to 110 villages. Hence, responsibility is not on us to come up with contingency plans for those areas,” BWSSB Engineer-in-Chief says.

For the 110 villages that do not yet have Cauvery water connection, dependency on borewell water would continue. This time around, the BWSSB is also predicting groundwater depletion due to scanty rainfall. “So far in 62 years, we never faced shortage of water supply from Cauvery. But this season, I assume we may face it, along with groundwater depletion,” the Engineer-in-Chief says.

No funds if there’s no permanent water source

BWSSB Chairman Tushar Girinath addressing the water meeting at BBMP said people of 110 villages need to wait till 2018 to get piped water. “Rs 5,000 crore was the initial budget to give water connection and sewage network to newly added 110 villages of BBMP. The Central government approved to avail loan of Rs 4,600 crore from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). We have shown to JICA that water availability for these villages will be ensured by reducing Unaccounted for Water (UFW). However, JICA made an observation that BWSSB can supply Cauvery water by reducing UFW only till 2024, after which we will face water shortage. JICA has asked us to give them a commitment to supply water to 110 villages from a permanent water source,” he said.

With such nitty gritty, the big JICA water project will not commence before 2019. Therefore, BWSSB has now come up with a small water project to serve the water needs of 110 villages temporarily. “The Water Board prepared a separate project plan of Rs 1,886 crore to supply water to five zones. Tender will be floated for the project in December and the work is likely to commence in February 2017. This way, we hope we will be able to supply water to 110 villages from 2018 to 2024,” he said.

Citizens need to think STPs and water harvesting

In the wake of water scarcity, it’s time for citizens to carefully manage water resource. BWSSB, on its part has made it mandatory for all apartments with more than 20 housing units to instal sewage treatment plants.

In January 2016, when Vijay Bhaskar was the Chairman of BWSSB, he issued a circular making it mandatory for apartments with over 20 housing units to have STPs. Meanwhile, the Forest Department too brought a policy making STPs mandatory for apartments on the similar lines. The State government issued a notification on the same. Both the circular and notification did not go down well with citizens for it had retrospective effect.

While there has been lot of deliberations and discussions among citizen groups about enforcing the circular with retrospective effect, BWSSB Chairman Tushar Girinath has clarified that the circular will not be revoked or modified.

“We have conducted a few workshops to discuss and inform people about how STPs can be set up in the existing units using available space. However, it would need time for people to follow this. Therefore, we will request the State government to relax the deadline to implement the new STP policy, may be till next June or July. We are hopeful that the government will agree to our request,” he said.

He also insisted that house owners compulsorily do rainwater harvesting. “We have given three months time to households to implement rainwater harvesting, failing which they will be penalised,” he warned