MS Shanker, a resident of a multi-storey housing complex in Bengaluru and his neighbours have shelled out Rs 105,000 this month not for regular maintenance of their eight-floor building with 128 units, but for the water needed for their day-to-day requirements.
This was expected wasn’t it when cries for saving Bengaluru’s lakes and storm water drains, preserving rain water and plugging leaks in the Cauvery fell on deaf ears?
And then the knee-jerk reaction – a proposal to ban the construction of multi-storeyed residential buildings for five years as the city of lakes faces an acute water crisis.
Karnataka's deputy chief minister G Parameshwara on June 27 said that there's a gap between the construction of new residential apartments and the amenities provided to them. "There are enough apartments being built in the city, but while selling them, there is no assurance of providing drinking water or other basic amenities," he said.
The move might also have a negative impact on the real estate market as the demand for homes in Bengaluru is massive. "With a reduced supply in the market, there could be a negative repercussion through increased property prices. With limited new supply entering the market, the demand for ready properties will go up significantly," say real estate experts. "Builders sitting on ready inventory will immediately increase the property prices of these homes by at least 10-15 percent. This will keep inflating over the years of the ban. However, homebuyers with new ready properties, whose prices remained stagnant over the last two to three years, may have a reason to cheer this move, as finally the values of their property will rise," said Anuj Puri, chairman – ANAROCK Property Consultants.
Additionally, builders sitting on ample land banks, or even those who were expecting to launch their projects with their project planning and designing completed, would face issues, as the costs incurred on carrying out these tasks and securing the required approvals, will all go in vain, he added.
The government is also planning to convene a meeting of all stakeholders to seek their opinion on the issue. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has been directed to make sure that the apartments have functional sewage treatment plants and officials have been asked to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR) to bring in water from the Linganamakki dam in the Shivamogga district, around 400 km from Bengaluru.
The water crisis in Bengaluru comes at a time when Chennai is facing a similar problem.
When all the water sources go dry, homebuyers residing in multi-storey apartments, medium size units or even standalone houses have to depend on tankers.
“Our monthly bill for the government water supply is Rs 40,000 and the private water supply costs us Rs 1,05,000. When we had adequate water in our borewells until last year, we bought private water for around Rs 60,000,” says Shanker, adding every water tanker charges Rs 800 in Bengaluru while in Chennai, the cost is Rs 3,500 per tanker.
NR Suresh of NGO United Bengaluru said that the situation is alarming and has arisen due to the continuous neglect by many governments and lack of administrative support.
Despite several reports raising an alarm over the gravity of the water crisis in the city, nothing has been done, he claimed. A NITI Aayog report had said that one hundred million people, including those in the large cities of Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, will soon be living in cities with no groundwater. A report by the Asian Development Bank had also said that by 2030, the city would lose 50 to 60 percent of drinking water supply in the city.
“The city has to concentrate on de-congesting itself. Improve the infrastructure in other Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in the state rather than put pressure on Bengaluru,” said NR Suresh.
Immediate steps should be taken up on a war footing. Get all lakes surveyed, install sewage treatment plants in projects, construct recharge wells and enforce the rule that every house should have a water harvesting pit, he says.
“All the city’s lake beds and storm water drains have been encroached. The only source of water is rainwater – what is being done to conserve that? A multi-pronged strategy is the need of the hour - recover illegally encroached lakes and storm water drains, implement suggestions made by experts, and ensure every drop of rain water is saved. Nearly 37 to 40 percent of Cauvery water get leaked - plug that leakage, and seriously work on cleaning up sewage water. We are generating 1,000 MLD of sewage water every day. All these measures need to be taken on a war footing. Halting construction should be the last option,” he says, adding create massive awareness among citizens to conserve water.
Real estate developers have termed the measure as a knee jerk reaction. Bengaluru Credai chairman Suresh Hari told Moneycontrol that the “Government should not take shortcuts. The measure will have massive tax implications. As many as 10 lakh labourers will be on the streets. The government needs to call all stakeholders – builders, buyers, environmentalists, water board officials on a common platform and thrash out ways to preserve water resources.”
“Set up sewage treatment plans, clear lakes of filth. A multi-pronged strategy needs to be implemented on a war footing. An NoC from the water board or the electricity department does not ensure that these basic facilities will provided, it’s yet another department to take a fee from the builders. That’s not a tangible solution. Water cannot be produced from thin air. There is need to regulate water,” he added.