India’s ‘Silicon Valley’ is running dry as residents urged to take fewer showers and use disposable cutlery

India’s ‘Silicon Valley’ is running dry as residents urged to take fewer showers and use disposable cutlery - Domestic News - News

The Water Crisis in Bengaluru: Desperation Amidst India’s Tech Hub

The arrival of the water tanker every fortnight serves as a vital respite for hundreds of residents in Bengaluru, a suburb of India’s most advanced metropolis. The tanker’s 1,000-liter capacity is a lifeline for families, as women rush to fill their empty buckets, their thirst for water palpable.

Susheela, a resident of the suburb of Bandepalya, shares her daily struggle as she and her family face the harsh realities of water scarcity. “Sometimes fights break out, there is a lot of arguing,” she admits. “But what do we do? We need water. We are desperate.”

Susheela’s household, like millions of others in Bengaluru, has run out of water. Her taps are dry, and the borewells that once supplied her family have gone empty. The southern city of Bengaluru demands approximately 2 billion liters (528 million gallons) of water per day for its nearly 14 million residents, yet the city’s water supplies have plummeted by more than half in recent days.

V. Ram Prasat Manohar, the chairman of Bengaluru’s Water Supply and Sewage Board, explains that residents must use water sparingly. They are urged to bathe on alternate days, opt for disposable cutlery, and restrict washing clothes and utensils.

The water crisis in Bengaluru is described as dire by those who live there. Experts warn that this situation will only worsen as temperatures rise leading up to the summer months. Climate scientist T.V. Ramachandra of the Centre for Ecological Sciences has been warning about this for over a decade, stating that “it’s a culmination of unplanned urban growth, rapid deforestation, and the ongoing climate crisis – and everyone is paying the price.”

Bengaluru, also known as India’s “Silicon Valley,” had once been celebrated for its extensive network of man-made lakes. The city boasted an abundance of greenery and forests, and its 900-meter (nearly 3,000 feet) elevation and pleasant climate earned it the moniker “India’s garden city.”

However, Bengaluru has undergone rapid urbanization since the early 1990s. Developers razed forests and built around its lakes as the city’s population exploded from about 4 million to over three times that size. Ramachandra notes that “as layers of tarmac swept through the city, Bengaluru lost its ability to absorb water.”

Today, 83% of Bangalore is covered in concrete, with no vegetation and limited groundwater recharge. More than 70% of the city’s water comes from the Cauvery River, but the lack of extended water pipe networks in new neighborhoods has forced these areas to rely on borewells for their water needs. A weak monsoon last year caused groundwater levels to drop significantly, leading to a severe water shortage for Bengaluru’s immense population.

Approximately 4 million residents of the city depend solely on borewells, and about 7,000 of these water sources have run dry. Civil engineer and Bengaluru-based water researcher Vishwanathan explains that “for the 11 million people (dependent on the Cauvery River), there’s a bit of scarcity but not too much of a crisis.” However, for those relying on groundwater, “there is a crisis because groundwater is going dry.”

In Bandepalya, a low-income community suburb in Bengaluru’s south, residents line up as early as 9 a.m., waiting for the water tanker to arrive. Private tankers commissioned by the government distribute water to neighborhoods when river and groundwater levels are low, charging residents for their service and increasing prices when demand rises.

Despite the government’s efforts to cap tanker delivery prices at 1,200 rupees ($14) per tanker, residents express financial concerns. According to Susheela, Bandepalya’s residents typically earn between 6,000 – 8,000 rupees ($70 – 95) monthly. Many are now forced to spend over half their income on purchasing water from tankers.

Geeta Menon, a social worker who works with low-income communities in Bengaluru, expresses concerns about the potential health risks arising from the water crisis. “Children are defecating on the streets as there’s no water at home, they’re going thirsty, people are unable to cook,” she says. “This is not just a short-term problem, but will have long-term repercussions if it continues.”

The city’s poorest are bearing the brunt of Bengaluru’s water crisis. Yet, even those in the upper middle class have been affected. Management from housing societies distribute daily updates to their residents, warning them of water shortages and urging them to conserve water.

The crisis has also impacted industries such as garment factories, which have been forced to slow production, and restaurants, where water bills have doubled. Managers at multinational firms are letting some employees skip meetings to collect water from tankers.

The crisis has turned into a political blame keyboards, with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accusing the Congress-led state government of mismanagement. The main opposition Congress argues that the federal government has not done enough to financially aid the crisis.

For Bengaluru’s residents, these arguments hold little meaning as they continue to grapple with the worst of the water shortages. Maher Taj, a mother of seven, shares her family’s struggles: “We have cut down how many times we use the bathrooms and take turns to bathe. Our children are using the washrooms in their school and my husband is going at his workplace. I have reduced water usage in all aspects of life. It’s pushing my family to the limit.”