Illegal and unmetered connections on Bengaluru’s outskirts deal a crippling blow to BWSSB
At a time when several areas of Greater Bengaluru are still without Cauvery water, theft of huge quantities of water is hampering the BWSSB’s effort to provide new connections. Complaints of water theft have been registered at the Thalaghattapura, Kodigehalli and Viveknagar police stations. Police are working closely with the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSB) in dealing with thefts. BWSSB officers conduct spot verifications and register FIRs, after which a chargesheet is filed against the accused and the matter goes to court.
Many such complaints are from neighbours of the accused. They directly write to the BWSSB chief engineer.
Manjunath, a head constable at the Viveknagar police station, confirmed that there are illegal connections in Ejipura, where people collect water from connections not registered with the BWSSB. Cases registered at the station are under the BWSSB Act, 1964.
Section 108A of the BWSSB Act states that: “(1) Whoever dishonestly obtains water supply through illegal connection or tampers meter or uses tampered meter in any manner resulting in non-recording or wrong recording of consumption of water or damages or destroys water meter/apparatus so as to prevent accurate metering of water consumed, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to three years or with fine; or with both.”
A retired board official revealed that the BWSSB is understaffed, especially on ground. The BWSSB vigilance squad, set up to identify illegal connections in the city, now has two members as against the stipulated five, a member of the squad said. There have been cases of double connection – people taking another connection without a meter.
Abul Hassan, a crime writer at the Viveknagar station, confirmed receiving cases from Ejipura, 20th Cross. “Most of the cases have come from that area. Households steal water from well-established BWSSB pipelines in nearby areas. They tamper with the connections at midnight.”
Since last year, the BWSSB has lost nearly 40% of its revenue. One major reason for this is water thefts. “There’s a loss in revenue to the BWSSB due to illegal water connections. People do not want to pay, so they steal water,” Chandrashekhar, technical assistant to the BWSSB chief engineer, informed Insight.
Records at the Thalaghattapura police station endorsed what the crime writer revealed: water thefts had occurred in Anjunapura, Thippasandra and Narayanagar.
A senior BWSSB officer said thefts occur in K.R. Puram, Bommanahalli, Mahadevapura and other areas on the city’s outskirts. “People supported by politicians take illegal connections. We have also seen cases of big hotels having such connections. It is very difficult to identify them.”
The officer added: “There is a possibility that our employees might be joining hands with them for money. They also help them to get illegal connections.” He praised the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd for having a system that allows it to check electricity thefts. The water board is lax in this regard.
Who controls private water tankers?
Tens of thousands of Bengaluru homes depend on private tankers for water. But there is no one agency to regulate the activity, Insight found.
Section 108A of the BWSSB Act says that: “(2) If it is proved that any artificial means or means not authorized by the Board exist for consumption or use of water by the consumer without being recorded by the meter, it shall be presumed that the consumption or use of water has been dishonestly made by such consumer until contrary is proved.”
A BWSSB official stated that the BBMP deals with private tankers. But BBMP chief health officer Lokesh M.N. said the matter does not come under the civic body’s jurisdiction. But the BBMP does issue trade licences to tanker operators, he added.
There has been an ongoing debate on who should control the private tankers. A retired BWSSB officer said: “A Bill to define whether private water tankers should be under the geology department or the BWSSB was proposed, but it has not come yet.”
A private tanker operator in Bellandur said he sources the water from a borewell. An operator based in Indiranagar stated the same. When Insight asked them about digging of borewells, both did not have an answer.