Power, water starved Bangalore looks to skies

Monsoon is still nearly five weeks away for Karnataka, and one prayer on the lips of its residents is that rains should be bountiful.

Bangalore: Monsoon is still nearly five weeks away for Karnataka, and one prayer on the lips of its residents is that rains should be bountiful. People, including those in Bangalore, touted as India`s technology capital, have been sweating it out without power and water.

Till the time the monsoon descends, some Bangalore residents are being forced to shell out huge sums of money on inverters or generators. They have to pay Rs.500 or more for 1,000 kl of water supplied by private operators.

Slum dwellers here are buying potable water by paying a minimum of Rs.5 per pot which gives them between 30 and 40 litres.

The central business district of the nation`s tech hub has been going without electricity for two to three hours a day for the past week and many residential areas have been facing blackouts for four hours or more.

Officials blame the huge gap in the demand and the supply of water and power in the city for the hardships being faced by residents ahead of monsoon. The water demand in Bangalore is about 1,300 MLD (million litres per day) but the supply is around 900 MLD.

The main sources for Bangalore are the Cauvery river water, 885 MLD, and the Thippagondanahalli (TG Halli) reservoir on the city`s outskirts, 60 MLD. The rest of the demand is met through around 7,000 borewells dug up across the city by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board.

Thousands of houses in the city have personal borewells, often used to supplement the BWSSB water supply. Officials estimate that the city has over 100,000 bore wells with new ones being added every summer.

The increasing number of borewells has led to the groundwater level depleting fast. In many parts of the city water is found only at a depth of around 1,000 feet.

Supply from the reservoir has come down to around 30 MLD from the third week of April as its water level is depleting fast. As against a full capacity water level of 74 feet, the water level has come down to 16 feet. If it drops to 12 feet, the drawing of water from it will have to be stopped, BWSSB officials said.

The state heavily depends on rains for its hydro-power generation that forms the bulk of the installed power generation capacity. Of a total of 5,700 MW installed power generation capacity, hydro-power`s share is over 3,600 MW.

In April and May, the state needs around 140 million units of electricity daily. The supply hovers around 115 million units, forcing power shutdowns, say officials.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which completes two years later this month, blames the central government for the poor power situation in the state.

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa asserts that the central government is supplying only about 1,200 MW power daily against the state`s share of 1,534 MW from the central pool.

"The state`s daily allocation from Central Generating Stations (CGS) is 1,534 MW. In terms of size, population and demand, this compares rather unfavourably with that of our neighbours," he says.

"We have repeatedly stressed that Karnataka`s share from CGS has to be increased and brought on a par with other comparable states," Yeddyurappa has been telling reporters since the onset of summer in April.

The party`s Lok Sabha member from Bangalore South, H.N. Ananth Kumar, says the state needs 7,200 MW of power daily, but the supply stands at 6,000 MW. Of the 7,200 MW, Bangalore alone requires 4,000 MW, he says.

State Congress president R.V. Deshpande and working president D.J. Shivakumar and former chief minister and Janata Dal-Secular leader H.D. Kumaraswamy disagree.

They say there is no point in the chief minister blaming the central government for all the ills. They also accuse him of not adding even one mega watt to the state`s power generation capacity after coming to power in May 2008.

The BJP leaders counter these charges by reeling out statistics on power generation planned over the next five years.
"Every government on coming to power holds out a rosy picture on the future for Bangaloreans in the next five years. But at the end of their five years, residents are left with less water and more power cuts," says S.K. Chandrashekar, a 70-year-old Bangalore-based retired state government employee.

Chandrashekar, who was born and brought up here, recalls the good old days of city life till it became the fastest growing metropolis of Asia in the late 1980s, spurred by the boom in information technology, which in turn led to massive expansion of the realty sector.
Being home to IT majors Infosys and Wipro, with offices of major MNCs like IBM, Accenture, Honeywell, and marketed as a hot destination for health tourism, Bangalore continues to attract people and businesses, notwithstanding its power and water problems.