Worsening water shortage in India’s Bengaluru hurts businesses, households

FILE PHOTO: A view shows parched banks of Nallurahalli Lake, located on the eastern edges of India’s tech hub of Bengaluru that is facing water shortages, India, February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Euan Rocha/File Photo

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Bengaluru’s acute water shortage is slowing production at its garment factories, doubling restaurant water bills and forcing managers at some global firms in “India’s Silicon Valley” to accommodate unusual employee demands.

The southern Indian city is home to about 14 million people, thousands of startups and international firms from Walmart to Alphabet’s Google.

“My team is skipping meetings to chase water tankers,” a senior employee at Dell said on condition of anonymity, lamenting the hit to productivity.

The shortage, caused by weak southwest monsoon rains that failed to replenish depleted groundwater and the Cauvery River basin reservoirs, has already forced residents to ration water use and pay almost double the usual price to meet their daily needs.

“This is just the beginning of summer, we don’t know how it is going to turn out,” said Chethan Hegde, head of the Bengaluru arm of the National Restaurants Association of India.

Some restaurants are considering using disposable plates to save on washing-up, while others are putting up advisories in restrooms and training staff on how to operate with less water.

Larger companies are changing tack too.

Microsoft is using tap aerators to control water flow and recycling water in the washrooms at its office in Bagmane Constellation Business Park, an employee said, citing a memo sent to workers.

Walmart, which implemented similar water conservation measures well before the crisis, said it was also encouraging landlords to use recycled water for landscaping and gardening.

Some employees who live in water-scarce areas prefer to work in the office, a senior Accenture employee said.

Microsoft, Dell and Accenture did not respond to requests seeking comment.

The crisis has reached Bengaluru’s factories too.

“Manufacturers cannot afford to stall production, they are trying their best to go on, but work has slowed down,” South India Garment Association President Anurag Singhla said.


The situation worsened this week when some providers of water tanks – which the city relies on when river and groundwater levels are too low – went on strike after the state government moved to regulate them.

Dealers hiked prices for a 12,000-litre tanker of water to as much as 2,000 rupees ($24.19) in February, from 1,200 rupees ($14.51) in January, Reuters found last month.

The city has capped the price of such tankers commissioned by the government at 1,200 rupees per unit, according to a March 6 order seen by Reuters.

The government has also allocated 5.56 billion rupees ($67.24 million) to deal with the water shortage but some industry captains are not very hopeful.

“(The water board) had promised us treated water, but we don’t expect to get that until next year,” Peenya Industries Association President H.M. Arif said. “Already, micro industries are on oxygen and higher costs will lead to losses and they will have to be closed if the situation continues.”

($1 = 82.6830 Indian rupees)

(Addon from News India Times) One Bengaluru resident gave an account of their experience on condition of anonymity : “Right now, I am going around the garden about 30 times a day with a small bucket of grey water being kept under the sink tap, collected through all kitchen work…and watering the garden. We are bathing once in 5 days …using disposable cups and plates for all workers and even ourselves at times. We are in a queue for 5-6 days before we get a tanker of water. NO municipal supply ( Kaveri water) and nothing expected for another 2-3 months. We keep buying 25 ltr Bisleri bottles for use in kitchen and bathroom whenever we run totally dry. We flush only twice in 24 hours, just putting some Dettol after each use.
Dire straits. 70 to 80% borewells have run dry.
We, along with other activists have been warning of this since 20 yrs.”



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