With buildings trying to reach out to the sky, borewells reach down the other extreme. BWSSB is now trying to enforce the groundwater rules that came into force late last year. The Karnataka Groundwater Act, 2011 to track ground water exploitation calls for declaration of existing borewells/tubewells and mandates registration prior to digging any new borewells.
All commercial borewell drillers need to register themselves with BWSSB and proceed with drilling work after getting a consent letter from BWSSB. “Anybody digging borewells without prior permission from BWSSB will be subject to legal proceedings,” says Engineer-in-Chief BWSSB Venkata Raju.
“If people do not register and if it is found that they have an existing borewell then we have the authority to cut their power connection”.
While the above rule is valid for commercial borewells and drilling companies, domestic borewell users will also be notified. S Narahari, Executive engineer, BWSSB, says there will be a drive from March (the coming meter reading cycle) when water bill readers will distribute forms to people that notify them to register their borewells with BWSSB. He adds, “If people do not register and if it is found that they have an existing borewell then we have the authority to cut their power connection”.
How many borewells in Bangalore?
Narahari says that BWSSB has been updating their database on the number of borewells/open wells that exist in the city, around 1.75 lakhs. The investigation is based on the assumption that low meter readings of Cauvery water usage implies that a borewell exists on the property and additional verification. This information gathering started nearly six years ago, he adds.
According to data collated by S Vishwanath of Rainwater club and Arghyam, sourced from BWSSB (See Bangalore borewell data: Src:Praja) – “one out of every four houses in South Bangalore has a borewell plus a BWSSB connection and one out of every five houses in Bangalore has a borewell connection along with BWSSB connection”. This implies 1.05 lakhs, as of 2010. The study finds: This roughly translates to approximately 320 bore wells in every 1 sq km, in BWSSB serviced area. Approximately 40 new borewells are drilled every day in these areas.
Bangalore Urban Metabolism Project (BUMP) is a joint initiative of the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Centre for Public Policy at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. It looks at a systems understanding of problems related to urban sustainability.
BUMP tracked borewell data and its graph shows more than 8000 borewells that exist in subdivision that covers Basavanagudi and Chamrajpet areas. You could find out how many borewells were there in your ward here. The data was collected from BWSSB by Rimi Goswami, Phd student at IIMB working under the guidance of Deepak Malghan, Professor, IIM,Bangalore in 2009-11.
Registrations – a drop in the ocean
The Karnataka government issued the notification making registration of existing borewells and application for any new borewell (domestic and otherwise) mandatory on December 3, 2012. The data on domestic borewell registration applications received so far do not look promising.
BWSSB now has a record of about 135 borewells out of the estimated 1.75 lakh borewells in the city. Given the time limit of 120 days (from the date of notification) for registration, there is just another month to complete registration processes.
Most applications seeking permission and registration have come from South East division of Bangalore. About 30 existing borewells have been registered and 53 applications for new borewells received as of Feb 2013. The North East division of Bangalore has 27 existing borewells registered and 24 applications for permitting new borewells to be dug.
BWSSB will not permit a second borewell in any residential property. What if the first borewell has run dry? Narahari says BWSSB hasn’t come to a decision yet.
BWSSB say they will notify everybody in the next water meter reading cycle through their personnel, but you could go ahead start registering your borewell
The applications forms are available online here. Applicants will be charged Rs. 50 (drinking/agricultural) and Rs. 500 (commercial/ industrial) as ‘survey charges’ for new borewells and ‘registration fee’ for existing borewell. The registration charges are Rs. 5000 for drilling agencies.
New borewell applications ask for information like purpose of the new borewell and if there is an existing borewell. Existing borewell applications call for a more detailed description on the ‘type’ of borewell and ‘type and capacity’ of the pump in use. This information is tagged along with your BESCOM RR Number.
How to apply for a new borewell
Chief Engineer Venkata Raju clarifies the application procedure for new borewells as involving two steps. First you have to get permission from BWSSB for digging a borewell and present it to the commercial driller who is registered – make sure you ensure that he is a registered borewell driller with the Karnataka Mines and Geology Department.
KARNATAKA ACT NO 25 OF 2011
THE KARNATAKA GROUND WATER (REGULATION AND CONTROL OF DEVELOPMENT AND MANAGEMENT) ACT, 2011
Registration of existing users in the notified areas.- (1) Every existing user of groundwater in the notified area shall within a period of one hundred twenty days from the date of declaration as notified area by the Government shall apply to the authority for grant of a certificate of a registration recognizing its existing use in such form and in such manner as may be prescribed.
Then if the borewell drilling is successful, you are supposed to register your borewell with BWSSB. “We can only trust people to come forward to register their new borewells and existing borewell. We will not be tracking them proactively.” he says.
Discussion amongst the Karnataka Ground Water authority committee chaired by the Director of Mines and Geology is underway about the steps to be taken against those who do not register their borewells. Venkata Raju said they should have some enforcement rules by end of March 2013.
Narahari says that the authority to register drilling agencies has now been transferred to Karnataka Mines and Geology department because they are better equipped to make the required checks while registering commercial drillers and the drilling equipment.
Why this process
The Act tries to ensure that drilling is not against public interest, permission will be granted, only after providing for artificial recharge structures. The onus to build recharge structures is on the applicant within the period specified by BWSSB.
BWSSB needs to track groundwater dynamics with the quantity and quality of water being drawn. They also need to check for availability and conservation of groundwater resources.
Is BWSSB really checking prior to granting permission as per the Act? Raju says, the priority as of now is to get people to come forward and register their borewells, the required checks can happen later, he feels.⊕