As Bengaluru stares a water crisis in the face, residents turn to open wells

Monsoon clouds hang thick, and there is the promise of a downpour. Nearby, the Huvinane (Margondanahalli) lake froths silently as hordes of water tankers noisily jostle for space with completely different vehicles on the narrow roads.
Final year, Bengaluru seen floods, inundation and myth rain. Nonetheless for residents of Fern Meadows, a cluster of 70 houses in Byrathi, on the northern edge of the metropolis abutting on peri-urban villages, huge IT parks and residential complexes, their retirement haven grew to alter into barren. For over Two decades, the advanced, as soon as surrounded by farm land and plantations, had relied on a community of 5 borewells for his or her water. Final year, all nonetheless one dried up. Water tankers, sucking water from completely different borewells kilometres away, grew to alter into their lifeline.
“There are so remarkable of borewells in the space now that our groundwater has fully drained off. We had no completely different water source and we principal to search out a formula to revive our borewells,” says Prithvi Devaiah, a member of the colony’s residents’ welfare board. And that’s how Devaiah and completely different residents chanced upon their now not going saviours: Manuvaddars, the neighborhood of effectively-diggers.
Strolling along the colony, Peddanna, 37, gauges the inclines. He has been a effectively-digger for 21 years and has dug virtually 5,000 recharge wells and 800 birth wells, Peddanna tells me. He has learnt to “read” the land and its relationship with water.
Within the shadows
Peddanna’s crew of 5 work by hand, taking out 70 kg of soil at a time, and after reaching a depth that will enable rainwater to filter via or seepage to receive, they decrease concrete rings and crushed stone to seal the enclosure. Over 60 such recharge wells are proposed to be dug in the neighbourhood now. In two years, the residents hope the rain will bring the borewells abet to existence. Nonetheless Peddanna desires the residents to gain the wells their sole source of water. “These wells can without complications give 32,000 litres of water each day, even for the length of the summer season,” he says.
A metropolis with a inhabitants of extra than 10 million and which has no water source to call its like, Bengaluru generally aspects on the pause of doomsday lists predicting water crises. In spite of the complete lot, the quantum of water drawn from the below-dispute Cauvery is reaching a saturation point, while groundwater ranges are plummeting, particularly in the colossal urban swathes where piped water is but to reach.
Working in the shadows of the metropolis’s IT hubs, the Manuvaddars and their extinct files may maybe well shield basically the most principal to Bengaluru’s water woes. As extra than four lakh borewells suck the metropolis dry, a brand new marketing campaign known as ‘A Million Recharge Wells’ hopes to bring the “effectively” abet in the metropolis’s water lexicon.
“Even must you take into myth little wells (3-ft-huge and 20-foot-deep), they’ll yield spherical 500 MLD (million litres per day) for the metropolis, or 25% of the search files from,” says Avinash Krishnamurthy, Director and Conducting Manager for Biome Environmental Have confidence that is helming the selling campaign.

There is furthermore a clear ecological profit: shallow aquifer wells recharge groundwater, while borewells handiest bring the water up. Whereas excessive-functioning borewells can retrieve water handiest at 600 ft or deeper, birth wells can quit to 50,000 litres of potable water at accurate 60 ft. Originate wells furthermore share a symbiotic relationship with nearby lakes: one recharging completely different when ranges dip.
Lost connection
The economics of it is extra sexy: birth wells give water at decrease than ₹2 per litre, borewells at ₹9 per litre, and piped water from Cauvery at over ₹25 per litre.
And then, there is water heritage. The metropolis’s demographic has modified, and with it, the emotional join with tanks and wells, which sustained the metropolis except 50 years in the past. “We must always birth increasing this connection with the landscape and water heritage and produce it to the recent metropolis,” says Krishnamurthy. In pockets of ‘feeble Bengaluru’, one can nonetheless win the attachment. “It’s miles adore the Ganga. With out it, we can’t work or continue to exist,” says sixty five-year-feeble Muniyappa, a dhobi in Frazer Town, in regards to the birth effectively there that provides over 40,000 litres of water a day. Many older temples proceed to depend on the wells in their backyard.
The selling campaign is slowly reviving the livelihoods of effectively-diggers. Three decades in the past, virtually all of the households in Bhovipalya in rural Bengaluru had been engaged in effectively-digging. As Bengaluru grew, the search files from, and space, for wells diminished. “Nobody desired to ranking birth wells to any extent extra. We would stroll spherical metropolis for days and capacity houses with disused wells. Nonetheless convincing the residents of their importance was refined,” says Ramakrishna, who has been in the profession for the previous Two decades.
Now, with renewed search files from, generally as excessive as three wells a week, about 50 other folks from Bhovipalya have switched to effectively-digging fat-time. “Each effectively may maybe well make use of as a lot as four other folks and support them for a week,” says Ramakrishna.
There is remarkable to invent even though, particularly on the authorities’s share. The hope, says Krishnamurthy, is to invent a decentralised map of water present and incentivise recharging, as an alternative of basically the most in vogue map that consumes highly subsidised, highly-restricted river water.
The Belagavi instance
In all probability, Bengaluru can be taught from the spectacular turnaround by Belagavi metropolis in Northern Karnataka. The 800-year-feeble metropolis had its moment of reckoning in 1995, when a drought introduced it to the brink. The metropolis, which receives extra than 1,500 mm of rain yearly and sits on porous soil, had poke out of water. Civic officers and residents grew to alter into to an ingenious and snappy solution.
They revived the birth wells in the metropolis: Congress Effectively, dug in 1924 to give water to delegates of the Belgaum Congress Session, and the British-technology wells in Veerabhadra Nagar (1908), Shetty Galli (1885) and Math Galli (1883), amongst others. This day, 23 years later, the 29 revived wells work in tandem with the metropolis’s water present to quench the thirst of virtually 1/2 the metropolis’s populace.
“It has reiterated our faith in the sustainability of water from birth wells,” says R.S. Nayak, chief engineer of Belagavi metropolis corporation and the architect of the birth effectively map.
Now not too long in the past, even though, Belagavi appears to be like to be going the Bengaluru formula by dreaming up plucky engineering solutions. Correct adore the IT metropolis jam its sights on the Cauvery in the 60s, Belagavi seeks to bring the Ghataprabha river (some 35 km away) below the ‘shipshape metropolis project’, forgetting its wells and the solution below its nostril.
(Extra reporting by Rishikesh Bahadur Desai in Belagavi.)