Depleting water levels, soaring temperatures and a power crisis: Bengaluru’s troubles are piling up even before the summer is upon us. The government refuses to acknowledge the problem, maintaining that the KRS dam’s 6 tmc ft of water will see us through the season. RWAs however, have prepared for the worst and are actively campaigning for conservation measures like rainwater harvesting and solar-powered appliances.
While farmers are in the frontline of the battle against the drought in the state, Bengalureans are not immune to its effects either as the city’s water sources are drying up with the storage in the Cauvery dams falling steeply. Although it is not experiencing a water crisis of humungous proportions or a severe power shortage just yet, people living on its outskirts are already getting a taste of things to come.
Several in the east of the city complain their part of town is the first to feel the pinch every time there is a water shortage as it is at the tail- end of the supply line. Says Mr Gopalaiah of Ramamurthy Nagar, "Although it is only March, our water supply has already become irregular. I agree we are at the fag end of the supply line, but that doesn't mean the water board can take us for granted and supply us the little that is left after satisfying the needs of the rest of the city.”
While many in Bengaluru east are beginning to rely on private tankers for their water supply, unscheduled power cuts are making the lives of people in areas like Indiranagar, Malleshwaram, Chamarajpet, Ramamurthy, K R Puram, Banaswadi, Frazer Town, R T Nagar, Sahakarnagar, Yelahanka, and Sanjay Nagar miserable.
"With the city increasingly turning into a concrete jungle, it is becoming hotter than ever and the unscheduled power cuts are only adding to our misery," complains Ms Yashoda, a home-maker from Chamarajpet.
Ask BWSSB chief engineer, Kemparamaiah, and he, however, claims the water supply is still largely regular over most of the city. But he admits that complaints of water shortage are coming in from some areas due to the rising demand for it with the onset of summer. “ We need around 1350 MLD to supply to our consumers every day and hope to maintain this supply in April and May too as the KRS dam has 6 TMC of water left," he assures.
As for the power cuts, Ms Jayanthi N, general manager (customer relations), Bescom, claims there is no load-shedding in the city and blames them on technical glitches and faults in the distribution network among other such unforeseen factors.
Small but significant initiatives by RWAs
With summer setting in, Resident Welfare Associations across Indiranagar are actively campaigning for water and power conservation on social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.
Says vice-president of the Indiranagar 1st Stage League, Swarna Venkataraman, "LED lights may be costly, but they are one of the best ways to save power. A building in our area, which has switched entirely to LED bulbs and solar geysers, is able to save anywhere between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000 a month in power bills. They are economical and eco-friendly too."
As for water, she says, the association has been educating people to use it judiciously and reduce their individual water consumption. "If one bucket of water is used for bathing, we are asking them to make do with 3/4 of a bucket," she adds.
Mr Joel Samuel, honorary secretary of the Benson Town Residents Welfare Association, says it regularly conducts sessions to educate people on water and power conservation. "Water and power must be used judiciously. There are over 9,000 households under our association and we have gone door to door to reach out to them and ask them not to use potable water for gardening and washing cars. We have also advised them to take to rain water harvesting seriously and plant as many trees as possible,” he reveals. The people of this area too are being advised to switch to solar powered geysers and LED bulbs to save power.
BWSSB action plan for summer 2017
Assuring that the city can expect regular water supply even in summer, BWSSB chief engineer, Kemparamaiah explains the water board needs around 1350 MLD every day to supply to its consumers. “We are currently maintaining our regular supply schedule. But as the demand for water is greater during summer, there could be complaints of water shortage from some places," he says, adding that the 6 TMC of water in the Krishna Raja Sagar dam should be enough to help the board meet the city’s demand during peak summer in April and May without water rationing.
Pointing out that the weathermen have predicted rain in May, he says this could increase the inflow into the Cauvery dams, further easing the supply to the city.
Happens every summer, we’re still not ready
D S Rajashekar, president, Citizens' Action Forum
Is the crisis surrounding power and water new to us in any way? No. It’s been around for decades, what with the absence of political will and lethargic babus who have failed to find a solution to the menace that has haunted us for so long.
Take, for instance, the functioning of the BWSSB. Every year during the summer season, the city faces a water scarcity. Despite this, the civic body hopes to survive the season with the existing water levels, so we survive the dry spell with parched throats. What prevents them from finding a solution?
Any government, whether it is the Congress or BJP, should give priority to water and power crisis. Instead of this, authorities beat around the bush – if traffic is bad, leave home earlier. What if we wake up one day to find our drinking water reserves have run dry? This situation is closer at hand than we imagine! The BWSSB’s attempts at Rainwater Harvesting have been a total failure, with hardly anybody hopping on board.
Cities like Mumbai have a surplus of power and failures are very rare. And they affect a wide spectrum of the population, from children trying to study for their exams to ailing individuals who do treatments like dialysis, which run on electricity. The well-being of the latter is at risk.
There are many think tanks in the city which can offer permanent solutions to water and power crisis. The government should invite them, hear out their ideas, debate and then come out with solutions instead of postponing things until the situation repeats itself the following year....