Source water locally, ban borewells, to prevent scarcity

The reason for Bengaluru's water scarcity is our disconnect with the source of water. To reverse this, each ward should be made to generate water locally, and Cauvery water be taxed heavily, opines the author

Bengaluru faces another water crisis this summer. It’s not just citizens who are responsible for this situation. For decades, the state government and civic administration have been focusing on short term strategies, without assessing whether these are sustainable.

The main cause of the current crisis is that we have no clue where our resources come from, what their limits are, and we don’t value what we have. The city has destroyed its water security – the 1800 lakes that our forefathers built here, are down to less than 200 now. And even these remaining lakes don’t have potable water. If those 1800 lakes had been preserved, even today Bengaluru would have had enough local water resources for its population.

Instead, governments over the years have followed the misguided policy of moving the water source out of our sight – first by depending on Hesaraghatta reservoir, then Thippegondanahalli reservoir, and eventually Cauvery river. Thus we were disconnected from our water source, an understanding of the source and its value.

The biggest disaster was allowing borewells! Now we have residents who dig borewells randomly to deep aquifers and use unhealthy water, even as they destroy the remaining lakes. Not realising that deep aquifers are almost a non-renewable resource, we have been exploiting it carelessly, and now water is available only at alarming depths of 1500 feet. This means we have almost no water left.

The worrying bit is that 60 percent of Bengaluru’s population of 1.2 crore depend on borewells now! And now that the borewells are drying, what happens to them? We are right in the middle of a humanitarian crisis unfolding.

We require a water security strategy, and soon:

  • The city probably should constitute a Water Board that has supreme powers over its water resources, and regulate and mange these resources. This board should consist of non-political experts on both water and sustainability.
  • The policy in Bengaluru should be to localise water use and processing. Every ward should be held responsible for generating, renewing, maintaining and providing water for its residents. Only water generated at the ward level should be subsidised. Water from distant sources, such as from other wards or from Cauvery river, should be priced at actual cost, removing all subsidies. Water from these sources should in fact be taxed, to discourage its use. This policy will incentivise wards to revive their lost lakes, and make lake water potable again. It will also make people come face-to-face again with their water source, and hence respect and value it. It will also make them connect with nature and conserve it.
  • All existing water assets – lakes, streams, rivers, shallow wells and borewells – should be inventorised and monitored transparently.
  • Borewell drilling must be banned throughout the country. Existing borewells should be shut down, and only community borewells should be allowed to operate.
  • If the use of borewell water is allowed, it should be heavily taxed. Water from beyond the ward boundary should also be taxed heavily, more so if it is routed from rivers. Shallow wells should be tax-free.
  • Along with lakes, shallow wells should be revived on a war footing.
  • A million recharge wells should be dug all over the city, so that shallow aquifers can be recharged by rainwater, and used over the year.

An integrated plan should be put together and implemented as an emergency. This is the only way forward for both water security and building a sustainable city. Else, we can all start making plans to migrate away from Bengaluru!

Disclaimer: This article is a citizen contribution. The views expressed here are those of the individual writer(s) and do not reflect the position of Citizen Matters.


  1. Bangalore citizen says:

    This works well for privileged people from affluent neighbourhoods that have lakes in them. For the vast majority of people there is no way ponds or lakes can be built near by because of the lack of space

  2. Prasad M says:

    By Collecting Tax on each water resources what we will achieve? There should be very strict rule/punishment against new bore-wells. No one should be given permission drilling bore-wells. By just putting Tax we won’t achieve anything. Every year Bengaluru gets enough rain but we/government don’t have strategy to store and conserve it. Bad planning or worst political corruption.

  3. vikram says:

    people are so busy in finding next technology and serving other countries.
    politicians are busy to earn back there spent money during elections..
    need to wait one more decade until it will come to worst condition..
    Then people and political parties will come and work for environment..

  4. Anil says:

    Borewells are dug without permission / BBMP keep eyes close as they get their share for keeping quite.So many buildings have come up on small sites– in Bangalore one can find out 4-5 stories building on a plot of 1000 sq ft. All illegal, money plays important role. BBMP has to control illegal borewells. BBMP is busy only on whitetopping of roads even roads which were good have been done with whitetopping. Garbage-+ employees and contractors have understanding, cleaning staff expects money to lift garbage.

  5. ravi says:

    can someone explain why we have to close private borewell? are they wasting water?.

  6. q h nagpurwala says:

    It is the bad town planning and unchecked urban growth that has brought the water scarcity in Bangalore to this alarming level. Who is responsible for allowing apartment buildings and other structures on the lake beds? Even the existing lakes are in bad shape? What BBMP has done to save these? Why the industrial growth is concentrated in Bangalore only leaving other towns in Karnataka? What is needed in this hour is a meticulous long term planning and sincere, concerted and corruption free efforts to improve the basic civic amenities in Bangalore. Or we will reach a point of no return ! !

    • Samaga Dattatri says:

      The questions raised are relevant.The govt.should ban construction of high rise buildings on sites measuring even 30’×40′.Construction of apartments should be banned forthwith by deleting the rules relating to apartment constructions from 15.5.2019 and apartments aeIting approvals should not be considered for approval. Digging note wells even in small sites where not more than two floors exist or are going to be put up should be banned.Flow of sewerage and other types of water from apartments into the lakes nearby should be checked and ruthlessly stopped. Anymore expansion plans of Bangalore should be abandonned. No more industry should come up within 40 kms from the corporation limits.

  7. Shree Govind Shah says:

    Bangalore is facing drinking water scarcity and this situation will be worst in coming years as demands increase each year. Too much dependence on borewells will cause ecological imbalance and disaster as the deep aquifers are less rechargeable. Though governments at municipal and provincial levels are aware of the situation and officially they are committed to solve water crisis, they are not conscious and sincere to implement environmentally sound water resources plan. I would suggest water technologists and environment/water activists to work together and force governments to plan and implement environmentally and ecologically sound WATER PLAN for ever expanding Bangalore region.

  8. Rajkumar says:

    Banning construction of new bore wells is OK but , shutting down already constructed ones is way too much.

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