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14/05/24 | 5:26 pm

The water tanker drivers keeping ‘India’s Silicon Valley’ Bengaluru running

Basavaraj, a water tanker driver in India’s tech hub of Bengaluru, has to make sure he leaves home by 6:30 a.m. each day to collect enough water for his customers, who now depend on his services for a very basic need.

Residents of the southern city, capital of Karnataka state and often called “India’s Silicon Valley”, have been reeling due to water shortages in an unusually hot summer, after weak southwest monsoon rains failed to replenish depleted groundwater and the Cauvery River basin reservoirs.

Tanker drivers like Basavaraj have become a lifeline for many of the 14 million or so residents of the city, home to thousands of startups and global firms from Walmart to Alphabet’s Google and seen as a symbol of an ambitious, rising India.

The 22-year-old fills up his tanker at a small man-made pool fed by four boreholes in the northern part of the city. He then does rounds of four or five buildings whose residents are his regular customers.

The pool’s owner, Nandish, who did not give his last name, said the pool itself is facing a shortage and can supply fewer tankers now. He serves about 15-20 tankers now compared to around 40 tankers in the past, he added.

Once dotted by several lakes and thick forest cover, Bengaluru has become a concrete jungle in recent years. Over the last four decades, it has lost 79% of its bodies of water and 88% of its green cover, while areas covered by concrete have increased 11-fold, according to studies by the Indian Institute of Science.

With summer yet to reach its peak, water tanker dealers began charging residents in some parts of Bengaluru almost double the amount for a tanker, forcing the state government to regulate them and cap the price at 1,200 rupees per unit.

That triggered a new crisis as some providers of water tanks went on strike briefly to protest against the cap.

Daisy, 60, lives close to Basavaraj and next to a privately owned borehole that supplies water for free to residents in her area.

“The water that we get in our neighbourhood is wastewater and if we do not want this dirty water, we can only resort to buying water drums (storage tanks) which cost us 50 rupees,” Daisy said.

(Reuters)

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