While they are struggling to figure out the BBMP’s muddled up garbage management policy, apartment owners are hit with tanker water price hikes.
In the last 3-4 months water tanker prices have risen quite steeply, especially since the city’s water crisis became severe. This applies to apartments in both outskirts and old areas. Most do not have functioning borewells, as opposed to individual houses.
Bannerghatta Neighbourhood Association (BANA), a collective of 25 apartments along Bannerghatta Road, has faced sharp price hikes in the last few months. BANA Treasurer Shankar Bharadwaj says that the price varies from Rs 450 to Rs 600 per load of 6000 litres. Large apartments like L&T South City are charged Rs 450, while the smaller apartments are charged Rs 550-600 since they consume less.
Under BANA, a few apartments do not have BWSSB water connections yet. "Apartments pay the highest property tax, but do not get facilities. We plan to ask BWSSB about the deposit it collected from apartments initially, promising water supply," says Bharadwaj.
"The price (tanker water) used to be Rs 300-330 until 3-4 months back. Randomly, the suppliers came up with new rates, saying that the costs of getting water, labour etc., have gone up. They said that water sources exist in outskirts only, and the cost of bringing it to us was high," says Bharadwaj.
Mantri Classic apartment in Koramangala has been getting 6000 litre loads at the cost of Rs 400-1000. The apartment also has BWSSB water supply, and tankers are used only when there is a shortage. Prices shoot up only based on demand.
Muralidhar Rao, a resident of the apartment, says, "The usual rate is Rs 400. This went up to Rs 1000 during summer, because of the demand. Now that there is no severe shortage, the price has also come down."
In one city outskirt area, a local tanker association has demanded a 33% hike instead of the usual annual hike of 10%. Worried apartment owners wanted to maintain anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations.
"Our apartment came up in 1994, but we still do not have any supply other than from tankers. People with different income levels stay in our apartment, and not everyone can afford the tanker water hike. BBMP does not take responsibility because they think apartments can manage themselves," says a resident in one of the apartments here. The groundwater level in this area is so low that borewells at a 1000 feet depth are dry.
M Venkatesh, owner of Lakshmi Venkateshwara Water Supply Company in Kalyan Nagar, says that he used to distribute 5000 litres of water at the cost of Rs 400. He has not been supplying now as his borewell source has dried up. About high prices in other areas, he says, "In new layouts, there is no Cauvery or borewell water. Demand is high there, and tankers have to get water from far away sources. Hence the high prices."
Venkatesh says that he used to make profit of Rs 50-60 per load. "Rs 150 is for sourcing water, and about Rs 200 for diesel, driver’s salary, labour cost etc.," he says. M Devaraj, who owns Cauvery Water Supply Company in the same area, agrees.
BANA plans to ask authorities to regulate water prices, but currently no government agencies control them. S Narahari, Assistant Executive Engineer at BWSSB, says, "BWSSB or any other agency has no control over this. It is fully market-driven," he says.
However, it may not be true that the prices are only market-driven. In some areas, tanker companies appear to be showing cartel-like behaviour. Residents are worried that new water suppliers are being prevented from supplying to their areas. Because of lack of competitive options, many apartments have no option but to pay up.