patrol beat

Pockets of Thirst Remain - by Asha Rai, TNN

Is the water supplied to Bangalore enough to quench its thirst? Yes and No. Parts of the city get very good supply while some other parts get no piped water at all. Though the city scores the highest in this civic parameter, it is matter of concern that there’s huge disparity in the delivery of this critical civic service to the people of the city.

Bangalore, however, is nowhere close to the `24x7 pipeline water to all’, promise made by the government. This, despite the state government’s huge investment in the city’s water infrastructure over the past few years. Even our humble neighbours, Hubli-Dharwad now have a regular 24x7 water set-up that’s being extended to other districts across the state. How long before the capital city of Bangalore can boast of the same?

The survey conducted by Bangalore Patrol reveals that a whopping 30% of the wards -- 55 out of 198 wards -- still do not get pipeline water. Majority of these wards are in the outskirts. These newly added areas of BBMP are anxiously awaiting the completion of Cauvery water supply scheme (CWSS) stage IV phase-2 to see water flow through their taps.

THE WATER SCORE

There’s no ward with a perfect water score in Bangalore. J P Nagar which tops the list comes closest with a water score of 9.97 followed by Vasanthnagar (9.9). Srirammandir and Ganesh mandir wards share the third slot with a score of 9.81. A majority of the wards (132) have an average score of above 6. At the other end of the spectrum are Doddabidarakallu and Begur with a piffling score of just 1.43 demonstrating the huge differences in accessible water to residents of Bangalore.

Water scores have been derived on the basis of four main indicators – pipeline coverage, water quality, continuity of supply and average cost per capita. While the city slips in continuity of supply it scores highly in pipeline coverage and in the pricing of water which makes it affordable to all.

PROBLEM AREAS:
Even if the water situation isn’t as bad as is normally thought, the current status makes it clear that there’s definitely a need for better water management in the city. The sticking points being the quality and continuity of water supply. As for quality, all wards have scored only a 0 or 10 on the ward-level scorecard because water comes from one source and is either potable or not, there’s no in-between for this measure.

Most of the poor scorers are wards located on the city outskirts. Reason being that these wards depend heavily on bore-well water that’s highly susceptible to contamination. But there are some horror stories among the old wards as well. Even the water sample taken from the Bangalore mayor’s ward, Sarakki, was contaminated and scored an absolute 0! Shockingly, the list also includes the good-old Jayanagar, Hanumanthnagar and Basavanagudi areas.

Affordable water
Parts of the city might be waiting for water but the good news is that when it arrives it will be affordable. The low cost of water in Bangalore is huge plus. Bangalore meets the benchmark set by Asian Development bank (ADB) for affordability of water that’s determined by the average cost of water per household. A constant score of 10 under this indicator for all 198 wards shows that all wards of Bangalore have water priced at affordable rates.

However, there are variations in expenditure that also matter. For example, a family in Ramamurthy Nagar may spend Rs 3,000 per month on water tankers and mineral water bottles while for another family in Konena Agrahara might be spending a fraction of it at Rs 400 per month for the same.

MEASURING WATER STANDARDS
A lot of technology and testing has gone into measuring the final water score for each and every ward across the city. For instance, special pressure meters were used to test the water pressure in the taps. The standards followed are as per the IS: 10500 set by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

The water testing activities of Bangalore Patrol -- an initiative conceived and managed by Janaagraha -- were in full swing during May-June. A team of 40 field associates were on the ground collecting water samples from households in different areas to test quality. This included a 100 ml for bacteriological tests (for coliform and e-coli bacteria) and a separate one litre sample for the physical and chemical tests. The greatest challenge was ensuring that testing was done within three-four days of collecting the sample. The tests were conducted by Aqua Diagnosis, a unit of Eureka Forbes.

Side Lights

SAMPLE SHOCKS
How did the water samples taken from different wards of the city fare? The good news is there was no black water stock from any ward. However, even a bottle of 100 ml water from Rajagopalanagar (ward No 70) was enough to keep you away from the area for good. Pale yellow, it resembled a urine sample from the ward. Shockingly, this was the regular stock available for the people living here.

TRULY PRESSURE METERS
Using the pressure transmitters helped unearth many hidden water lessons and challenges. In some wards, it was impossible to get any proper reading on the meters. At some wards like Banaswadi, the readings and the quality tests had to be repeated as these areas did not have water supply for 15 days! Worse, at a house in Byatarayanapura, a house owner who allowed the pressure transmitter to be plugged to the water pipeline, later even suspected it of blocking the water connection to the house when actually there was no water supply!

Mr MAYOR, WHERE ART THOU?
Perhaps, it’s better off being the BWSSB minister’s son than even the mayor of the city, when it comes to water scores. Overall, Bangalore mayor’s ward, Sarakki, ranks 134 with a score of 5.11 with a 0 on quality! Way behind Vasanthnagar, led by corporator Katta Jagadish, son of BWSSB minister Katta Subramanya Naidu. The ward ranks 2 overall with a water score of 9.9 and a perfect 10 for continuity of water supply though quality is a problem. Numbers reveal that even municipal opposition leader M Nagaraj -- known for his protests inside and outside the well of the council hall for `more water’ -- is far better off as his ward Nandini Layout stands within the Top 25 on the overall list!