Groundwater turns into gold, government drilling deep

Panic seems to have hit the administration, with everyone from the state government to the BWSSB to the corporators getting onto a borewell-drilling spree.

With taps running dry and citizens left crying hoarse for want of water, the state government and Bangalore city council have gone into damage-control mode. Mayor S K Nataraj recently announced that borewells will be drilled in each assembly constituency and water will be supplied through tankers.

Borewell drilling

A borewell being drilled in Yamalur in North Bangalore, by Maanasa Drillers and Borewells. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal

According to BWSSB’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) A N Prahlada Rao, starting last Sunday, the water board will be drilling two borewells a day in each division of the city (North, South, East, West). Rao says that water is also being supplied via the 44 BWSSB tankers. An order has been placed for another 30 tankers. "In some areas, we are hiring empty tankers to supply Cauvery water", he adds.

But tankers apart, it is the borewell-solution that seems to have caught everyone’s fancy. The state government, BWSSB officials and newly-elected corporators all seem to have come to a consensus and are on a borewell-drilling spree.

The demand for drilling borewells itself has gone up. With over one lakh private borewells and over 8000 BWSSB-owned ones, this number is likely to increase within the next few days/weeks.

Number of buildings with BWSSB connections, borewells and RWH facilities (data as of February 2010)

Zone No of Borewells No of Connections % of buildings with borewells
East 9346 81583 11.46
South 32593 124065 26.27
South East 12555 67338 18.64
Central 7206 49429 14.58
North 16126 89476 18.02
West 27675 148156 18.68
Grand Total 105501 560047 18.84

Data Courtesy: Vishwanath S, Rainwater Club 

Manjunath K S, owner of Venkateshwara Borewells in Mathikere, says that he gets about ten to 15 calls a day requesting to drill borewells. In the last one month alone, the company has drilled around 50 borewells with about 80 per cent successes. "People also ask us to go down deeper", he says. Most requests he gets are from Dasarahalli, Yelahanka and Byatarayanapura in North Bangalore.

Another borewell drilling company, Mamatha Borewells located in Ganganagar has drilled around ten borewells in the last one month. Company owner C V Vishwanath says that most calls he gets are from east Bangalore. Even though they have hit water in all their orders so far, he says in areas like Banaswadi and Lingarajapuram, they go down to about 1000 ft.

Vishwanath explains the water-level is much higher in areas like Malleshwaram, Vijaynagar, Jalahalli and Basaveshwarnagar where they go down to a maximum of 500 ft.

N S Subramanya who runs a borewell-drilling company in Banashankari says that they are forced to go down to about 800 ft in south Bangalore areas to find water. His company N S Borewells caters to houses in JP Nagar, Puttenahalli, Uttarahalli, Konanakunte and so on.

Corporators too join in the borewell frenzy

Even as citizens are taking it upon themselves to dig borewells as an alternative to Cauvery water supply, newly-elected corporators are not far behind. Many corporators have started off working in their ward by drilling borewells. B S Manjunatha Reddy (BJP), corporator of Bommanahalli (Ward 175) says that he fills up tankers with water from the borewell in his house and sends it out residents in the ward. "I send about seven to eight loads every day. We also buy about ten loads everyday", he says.

In Peenya Industrial area (Ward 41), corporator K L Thimmananjaiah (Independent) says they are digging borewells and repairing the old ones. "We also want to get new valves for Cauvery water", he says.

It’s the same in wards like Bagalkunte and Mallasandra, where the respective corporators are drilling borewells. In Ullalu (Ward 130), corporator D Rajanna (Congress) says that 18 borewells have gone dry.

Depleting ground water level

Over the past few days, the issue of water supply has turned into a politically-charged one. On April 30th, during the BBMP council session, members of the Opposition protested against the water supply problem and lashed out against the ruling party for not taking active steps to address it. It was in response to this that the Mayor announced the digging of borewells, inspection of affected areas and so on.

bbmp council session

On April 30th, at the BBMP council session, members of the opposition shouted slogans and protested, demanding a solution to the water crisis in the city. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal

Interestingly, all of them seem to think that a borewell is the answer to this problem. M Nagaraj (Congress), corporator of Nandini Layout (Ward 43) and Leader of Opposition in the BBMP council, says there is no other immediate alternative.

But experts in the field of water management and sustainibility are worried. Ground water levels are depleting and there is no check on them. Says M N Thippeswamy, himself a former BWSSB official and currently advisor at Arghyam (a not-for-profit working in the water sector), "I do not recommend drilling of borewells. Ground water legislation is important. That’ll give leverage to scientifically address the problem". He states that such a legislation is already in place in states like Punjab and Delhi.

A concerned citizen, Col (retd) C K Seshadri, a resident of JP Nagar 6th phase, also feels the same. Despite the fact that the area has been hit by irregular water supply for several months now, Col Seshadri is wary of borewell-digging. "Drilling borewells is not the answer. Water level is down. It’ll go down further", he opines, explaining that instead the BWSSB should release water at specific times and inform the public about this. "Then people won’t overuse and won’t store in excess. Otherwise, people tend to stock up because of irregular supply".

Comments:

  1. Vishwanath Srikantaiah says:

    Urban water systems are all inter connected…surface water, rainwater, groundwater and waste water…all interact with each other. Unless we take steps to universalise and give every household in Bangalore a connection and manage groundwater better we will face a situation of competitive drilling.
    BANGALORE and in particular the BWSSB is the first city in India to charge afee for borewell water use and therefore has details of the number of bore wells in the city. Rs 50 is charged as sanitary cess for each borewell per month.
    It is time that the BWSSB insists on a meter on each bore well and charges on a volumetric basis. The monies collected can be used to faciltate recharge and cap groundwater use where required.
    The BWSSB can begin by creating a hydro-geological cell and manning it with requisite skilled people to uinderstand manage our groundwaters better. This will be crucial to bangalore’s water sustainability.
    Let us also remember that the poor are the most dependant on groundwater since they are usually not connected to the piped network. Ensuring adequate water in the bore wells will mean more water for the poor.

  2. Pramod Naik says:

    It appears like the Mayor and the corporators have taken a very timid approach towards this issue. Instead of going after the BWSSB and finding ways to plug leaks and wastage, they’re resorting to a suicidal path of digging more and more wells. Someone needs to put some sense into these fellows. Great job by CM on this water issue.

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