In the last week of March, while World Water Day was being marked globally with a focus on “Urban Water Management”. But our own urban administrators were busy – giving out contradictory statements about metropolitan water management and plans for tackling water scarcity as summer sets in; leaving citizens with emotions ranging from confusion to anger that can be as enervating as thirst.
The Karnataka Groundwater (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) bill passed recently forbids drilling of borewells in groundwater-depleted areas (and most areas are depleted, with the water table sinking to incontrovertibly alarming levels) but four days later, the BBMP commissioner (no less) calls for digging 1,511 borewells at a cost of Rs 92 crores. Strange? That’s only the tip of the water mismanagement-muddle.
Now the BWSSB is buying 62 tankers, to be paid for by BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) but the Palike has reportedly agreed to pay only part of the cost of the tankers that the water board wants. This same BWSSB spent over Rs 100 crores on drilling 2,800 borewells in the areas recently added to the BBMP, but here is the crunch “only 40 per cent of these borewells are functional“.
A small, one-syllable question, with big implications: Why?
If 40 percent of newly installed borewells are not functioning, who monitors, who gets penalised? Who was awarded the contract for these naam-ke-vaaste borewells?
No problem, there are always excuses aplenty – “It is the erratic power supply that is responsible for the problem of water shortage in many areas,” declares the chairman of the water board. Ask the BESCOM why power supply is erratic (not just shortage, mind you, but unpredictable and capricious) and the buck gets passed again – from one corporation to another board to a third authority, till the hapless citizen just gives up in sheer confusion. How naive of us to try to hold the water board responsible for water supply, and the municipal corporation for civic maintenance etc – there is always the “other”, like in Bollywood cinemas, to pin the blame on…
There is more – a former chief engineer of BWSSB says we lose “40 per cent of the city’s drinking water supply“. Why? How? Leaky pipes? (This same former official has declared that finances are not a problem) So whose job is it to plug these leaks?
If some areas have no water, others have water that is worse than having none – around Rajajinagar and Magadi Road, water is so badly contaminated with industrial effluents that residents are breaking out with skin rashes and worse, long-term exposure to such filthy water, doctors have warned, can lead to cancers.
We have a Pollution Control Board whose job it is to monitor water discharged from industrial units to ensure that contaminants like toxic heavy metals which have been found in these areas and in Peenya, do not cause health hazards. So we have one more regulatory “Board” that is not doing its job.
In the meantime, summer’s here, temperatures are soaring, and thirst drives citizens to drink whatever water is available, even if it looks a bilious green or a sickly yellow.
While I agree with the sentiments of the author, a veteran consumer activist whom I much respect , let me with respect also disagree a bit here and there with her.
The Groundwater Governance Bill is to register, monitor , manage and regulate groundwater and its extraction, not simply to ban bore-wells in overexploited zones. If the BWSSB cannot supply me water it cannot bar me from trying to arrange for my own source of life or the BBMP in drilling for more bore-wells to supply drinking water.
The Pollution Control Board is a toothless organisation , understaffed and with hardly any accountability. How do we rectify this is a million dollar question.
This city put on 3 million people between 2001 and 2011. The BWSSB has to meet the requirements of such an explosion . surely some sympathy for a herculean task :).
Every citizen who consumes 25,000 litres a month and there are quite a few who do, get a subsidy of Rs 1059 every month. Were the good citizens of Bangalore do that and were the BWSSB to be efficient we could have much better water supply. Never heard citizens say I want to pay the true price of water and sanitation neither do the BWSSB put this picture and ask.
Water is also a complex Social, Technical, Institutional, Financial, Legal and Ecological challenge. Phew :).. and complex challenges need complex systems to deliver.
A Bangalore Urban Water Management Institution , responsible for all waters in the city including pollution issues, is what we need to demand and develop.
The govt. is clearly not upto the task unless gently- or not so gently- pushed. Who will do the oushing?