This Saturday, representatives of over 50 large apartments in Bellandur ward of Mahadevpura constituency met their MLA Aravind Limbavali, demanding a solution to their water woes. Majority of these apartments, located within the 110 villages that became part of BBMP a decade ago, have no BWSSB connections yet.
The few who do have BWSSB connections, mostly on the Outer Ring Road side, get erratic supply. Their borewells have dried up, and they are paying cutthroat amounts to private tankers to fulfil their minimum water requirements. Even then, they don’t have enough water.
BBMP asked to supply water, reign in private suppliers
Munireddy, BBMP Executive Engineer (Mahadevpura), says that a decision was taken at yesterday’s meeting to supply 60 tankers of water per day overall, to the apartments. “BBMP will hire tankers to fill water from BWSSB tanks, and supply this to apartments. The cost of hiring tankers and of the water should be borne by the apartments. We will take stock of the total water demand of these apartments by tomorrow, and start supply soon after” he says.
But majority of the apartments are large, with each requiring 30 tankers per day or more. Hence they are unlikely to benefit much from BBMP supply. Munireddy says BBMP will ensure that private tankers supply enough water to meet residents’ remaining requirement, and at regulated prices. “We will have a meeting with private suppliers soon,” he says.
However, BWSSB is unsure if it would be able to provide even 60 tankers of water daily to the BBMP, due to scarcity. “We may be able to give only 35-40 tankers. We have also asked BBMP to remit the bill amount in advance,” says M R Pradeep, BWSSB Executive Engineer (Bommanahalli). Munireddy says that the amount to be billed to apartments has not been worked out yet.
Water supply to the newly added villages is still BBMP’s responsibility, as BWSSB is yet to give connections in these areas. Mirza Anwar, AEE (Kundanahalli), BWSSB, says “We are currently sanctioning connections to only select villages across the city, among the 110 villages overall. This is to ensure equitable distribution across the city, and so that the existing supply system does not get affected.”
So, within the parched Bellandur ward, BWSSB has sanctioned connections in Haralur area, but not in the neighbouring Kasavanahalli. Kasavanahalli (which has many large apartments) would not get connection for another nine months, says Anwar.
Severe scarcity despite water rationing
Even apartments that do have BWSSB connections are relying heavily on private tankers. Take the case of Adarsh Palm Retreat (APR), a sprawling property located in Devarabisanahalli, behind RMZ Ecoworld. Recently, the situation here became so dire that water was rationed to less than eight hours a day, for ten days.
“This was for all our needs – kitchen, bathroom etc,” says Deepa Vijay, a resident here. Phase III residents of APR were especially hit by the crisis, despite having water storage capacity of 36 lakh litres. APR is spread across three phases – Phase I has 350 apartments, Phase II has 250, and Phase III 3 has a whopping 1400 apartments. Additionally there are three phases of independent villas.
Puneeth Agarwal, Joint Treasurer of APR’s Phase III Management Committee, says, “We had got BWSSB connection last March, and had no problems with water supply till October. Then it became quite erratic.”
“We were given to understand that there was problem with the height of the water pipe to our phase. Though Phase I and Phase II residents also had to go through water rationing, they did not have it so bad because the water pipe to those apartments were at a lower level,” says Agarwal.
SJR Verity, a 334-unit apartment in Kasavanahalli, does not have BWSSB connection. Jitesh Midha, member of SJR Verity’s Management Committee, says that water supply is cut off to residents between 11 am and 4 pm, but even this has not made a difference.
“Our water pipes are GI (galvanised iron) pipes, as is the case with older apartments. When we close the valves and reopen them later, water gushes out forcefully, causing iron particles to dislodge from the pipes. So when residents open their taps, the first two buckets of water would be murky, and they don’t use it,” says Midha.
Because of such wastage, the apartment’s total water demand has not reduced. Midha says they would be forced to increase the cutoff period by another two hours daily, and if this too isn’t effective, to cut off water on nights. Residents wouldn’t survive the summer otherwise, says Midha.
Private tanker rates rocketing
Till January end, SJR Verity was paying Rs 500 for a 6000 litre tanker of water. As scarcity increased, prices have increased every week. “It’s Rs 700 now, and we expect it to increase further,” says Midha. The apartment needs 25 such tankers everyday. That is, the residents collectively pay Rs 17,500 per day for water now.
“Private tankers are bringing water from as far as Attibele now. They say there is no water within a 10-km radius. But I think they are also taking advantage of the situation,” Midha says.
Neetu Tandon, another resident, says private tankers supply erratically despite charging more. “It’s been 16 hours and there’s still no water today. Tankers prefer supplying to individual houses that pay more,” she says. Since the requirement of individual houses is lesser, tankers charge them more compared to apartments that buy water in bulk.
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Conservation measures exist, but need to improve
Apartments like these already have functional Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), and reuse treated water in gardens and for toilet flushing. Some reuse reject water from ROs. Though such measures have reduced water demand, residents are now aware that these are clearly not enough.
Midha says that water meters are being installed in SJR Verity, to make residents accountable for their water use. “We are also changing the GI pipes. Residents need to be made aware of reducing usage; not all of them reuse reject RO water either.” However, Midha says that authorities have been irresponsible in allowing the area to develop for over a decade, without providing basic facilities like roads and water.
Vishnu Prasad of the residents’ association Kasavanahalli Development Forum says that residents themselves have been over exploiting groundwater in the area. “There is a borewell in every plot here, and almost all of them were dug without permissions. Two days back, we even saw someone digging a borewell on a footpath and complained to BBMP, without avail. We ourselves have to make more conservation efforts,” he opines.
Shrikant Narasimhan, General Secretary of Bangalore Apartments’ Federation, a collective of apartments across the city, says it’s only a matter of time before the whole city goes through a similar crisis. “The borewell has dried up in my apartment in CV Raman Nagar too. We get Cauvery water on alternate days, and are relying on private tankers for our remaining requirement. Since there has been no heavy rains in the last few years, water table has been going down in the entire city,” he says.
On Sunday, apartment residents in Bellandur met to discuss solutions. Dr Ananth Kodavasal, an expert on water treatment, explained how every apartment should reuse treated water. He said the expense on fixing STP in any apartment with 100 flats or more, can be recuperated by the savings.
Shubha Ramachandran from Biome Environment Solutions explained how recharge wells help. She said, “The Upper Ponnaiyar watershed where Bellandur lies, has good shallow aquifers – we can target 32,000 recharge wells in this area.”
While these are essential steps for the medium and long term, the immediate needs of residents need to be met. For now, it is doubtful if BBMP will be able to satisfy the water requirements of Bellandur apartments or reign in the powerful water mafia.
Manasi Paresh Kumar and Meera K also contributed to this report.