India’s tech capital Bengaluru plunged into unprecedented water crisis

World’s most populous country afflicted by insufficient rainfall, rapidly declining groundwater reserves and poor infrastructural planning

India’s information technology capital city of Bengaluru, formerly Bangalore, is facing an unprecedented water crisis, triggered by insufficient rainfall, rapidly declining groundwater reserves and poor infrastructural planning.

Over the past week, the city’s streets have seen long queues of people with plastic drums, buckets and even kitchen utensils, waiting for hours to obtain water from government-managed tankers and outlets.

Fights have erupted as desperate people in the city of more than 15 million jostled each other for a few litres of water.,Most were unable to afford the grossly inflated prices being charged for water deliveries from privately-owned tankers.

Business executive Roshin Varghese said she had had to wait for three days for a private operator to deliver 5,000 litres of water, and that was only after she had agreed to pay three times the previous rate.


City officials said Bengaluru at present had access to about 1,850 million litres of water per day, but needed about double that to meet its requirements.

They said water levels in the Cauvery river, which provides the bulk of Bengaluru’s water needs, had dropped by nearly 40 per cent due to inadequate rainfall during last year’s monsoon rains. This in turn had led to nearly 7,000 of 16,781 city borewells running dry.

Municipal officials also conceded that Bengaluru’s rapid urbanisation, whereby it had lost nearly 79 per cent of its natural water bodies and 88 of its green cover, had exacerbated these shortages.

Environmentalists said the indiscriminate “concretisation” of Bengaluru, once known as India’s “garden city”, had grown 11-fold in recent years to accommodate numerous industries that flocked to the high-tech metropolis.

The state government has collocated 5.56 billion rupees (€55.2 million) to deal with the water crunch, begun regulating supplies by private contractors and established a chain of helpline numbers to assist distressed locals.

“Water is not the property of any individual, but is a resource that belongs to the government” state deputy chief minister D K Shivakumar said. The government had the right to take control of all water resources, he added.

Bengaluru is not alone in India in facing a water crisis, as supplies remain under pressure nationally, with rapidly shrinking resources to sustain the world’s most populous country of more than 1.4 billion people.

A 2019 report by the National Institute for Transforming India, a government think tank headed by prime minister Narendra Modi, warned that groundwater resources, which accounted for 40 per cent of India’s water supplies, were being depleted at an “unsustainable rate”.

It said climate change, deficient rainfall, the onset of early and extended summers and rising populations were collectively making it impossible for urban municipalities to meet rising water demands. India, the report added, would become “water scarce” by 2025, and that by 2030 demand for water would exceed supply by a factor of two.

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi is a contributor to The Irish Times based in New Delhi