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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  The Bengaluru water crisis and how the Karnataka govt is tackling it
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The Bengaluru water crisis and how the Karnataka govt is tackling it

The Karnataka government has allocated ₹ 556 crore to address the crisis. Each MLA representing Bengaluru has been allotted ₹ 10 crore to address water scarcity in their respective constituencies

A view shows parched banks of Nallurahalli Lake, located on the eastern edges of India's tech hub of Bengaluru that is facing water shortages, India, February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Euan Rocha (REUTERS)Premium
A view shows parched banks of Nallurahalli Lake, located on the eastern edges of India's tech hub of Bengaluru that is facing water shortages, India, February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Euan Rocha (REUTERS)

Bengaluru is grappling with an acute water crisis due to depleting groundwater levels and a drought in the Cauvery basin. 

The increasing demand has led to soaring prices of water tankers in the IT hub and forced the Congress government in Karnataka government to step in to regulate supply.

The shortage hasn’t just affected the drinking water supply, but it has also had an impact on irrigation. Of the 14,700 borewells in Bengaluru, 6,997 have dried up, as per reports.

The Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), which supplies drinking water to the city, has said while the situation can be managed in central areas, the crisis is more serious on the city’s outskirts.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, cabinet ministers, and officials held a meeting on March 5 to address the problem.

The Bengaluru Water Supply

Bengaluru has two major sources of water. At least 1,450 million litres per day (MLD) of surface water from the Cauvery and another 700 MLD from borewells dug by the BBMP are handed over to BWSSB for supplying water, according to a report in The Indian Express. 

Also Read: Bengaluru water crisis: Housing society in Whitefield introduces 5,000 fine for misuse, deploys guard

With the Cauvery V Stage project – to provide piped drinking water to 110 villages added to the city administration – set to be commissioned in April 2024, the city was expected to get another 775 MLD.

But an acute shortage of rainfall in the Cauvery basin may have derailed those calculations, the report said. According to the BWSSB, the water input to the city has fallen by 50 per cent.

Dropping Levels in the Cauvery

The water level in the Cauvery River has substantially dropped since there has not been enough rain in the region. The weakened southwest monsoon rainfalls have resulted in groundwater levels going down and decreased water reserves in the Cauvery River basin reservoirs, according to a report by Reuters . This has affected irrigation and led to a drinking water crisis in areas of the capital city of Karnataka. The crisis is also being attributed to rapid urbanisation and poor infrastructure.

The crisis is expected to be more severe in the state during summers. As per a government assessment, at least 7,082 villages across Karnataka and 1,193 wards, including in Bengaluru Urban district, are vulnerable to a drinking water crisis in the coming months.

In September 2023, the state had declared a drought in 195 taluks, including parts of Bengaluru. The number went up to 216 of the 236 taluks in Karnataka later. This includes Mandya and Mysuru districts, from where Bengaluru sources water.

The 556 crore plan

The Karnataka government has allocated 556 crore to address the crisis. As per the plan shared by the state’s Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, each MLA representing Bengaluru has been allotted 10 crore to address water scarcity in their respective constituencies. Additionally, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has set aside 148 crore, while the BWSSB has earmarked 128 crore to address the issue.

“Water doesn’t belong to any individual; it is for everyone. We are creating a war room. All the officials will try and come up with a solution. We will also fix a common price for water tankers. 556 crores have been allocated for water supply," Shivakumar told news agency ANI.

The March 7 deadline

Shivakumar said that the government will identify the points where water is available and will make efforts to provide water at a very reasonable rate to all the people.

The Deputy Chief Minister also warned water tanker owners that the state government would seize their tankers if they did not register with the authorities before the deadline of March 7.

Earlier on March 4, Shivakumar said that out of the total 3,500 water tankers in Bengaluru city, only 10 per cent (219) are registered with the authorities.

Also Read: Bengaluru water crisis: ‘Water doesn’t belong to any individual,’ Shivakumar explains plan to tackle shortage

The government has also directed officials of BWSSB to be prepared to supply water from areas with abundant groundwater. Currently, BWSSB is utilising 210 tankers for water distribution. Shivakumar assured that election regulations would not impede water supply efforts.

The Tanker Prices

Shivakumar said that there was a slight pricing disparity between local and Tamil Nadu vendors, and efforts would be made to resolve this. For now, the unused milk tankers will be deployed for water supply. The government has also directed to operationalise all the drinking water centres that have not been operational till now.

The private water tankers are charging anywhere between 500 to 2000 per tanker. The government said that it would talk to the tanker association and fix a standard price. The government will also open BBMP helplines and ward-wise grievance centres to address complaints regarding water shortage in the city.

A War Room

A war room is being established to monitor the situation in real time. The Deputy Chief Minister said that senior officials, along with himself, would oversee the situation on a daily basis.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah laid the foundation stone for the Vrishabhavati Lift Irrigation Project in the Nelamangala Assembly Constituency on March 4. The Chief Minister said that the project would permanently solve the water problems in Bengaluru City, the surrounding rural areas, and the Tumkur districts.

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Published: 06 Mar 2024, 08:00 AM IST
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