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Bangalore Has Lowest Access To Piped Water Amongst 15 Global South cities: Study

According to ‘Unaffordable and Undrinkable: Rethinking Urban Water Access in the Global South' report, out of 15 cities, India’s Bangalore is the second city which has the lowest access to piped water after Karachi from Pakistan.

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Out of 15 cities, India’s Bangalore is the second city which has the lowest access to piped water after Karachi from Pakistan, according to a recent report.

 A World Resources Institute (WRI) report titled ‘Unaffordable and Undrinkable: Rethinking Urban Water Access in the Global South’ compiled data from 15 global South cities located in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America and among the regions that are the focus of the World Resources Report (WRR) Towards a More Equal City. 

The 15 cities are Caracas, Venezuela; Kampala, Uganda; Lagos, Nigeria; Maputo, Mozambique; Mzuzu, Malawi; Nairobi, Kenya; Bengaluru, India; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Karachi, Pakistan; Mumbai, India; Cochabamba, Bolivia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; São Paulo, Brazil; and Santiago de Cali, Colombia. Although not statistically representative, these cities illustrate the geographic, demographic, and economic development diversity regarding water access in each region. 

Households without access to municipal water self-provide or purchase water from private sources, which costs up to 52 times as much as piped utility water. In 12 out of 15 cities analysed, households connected to the municipal piped system received water intermittently, which compromises quality. Further, 'Day Zero' in Cape Town, South Africa, and recently in Chennai, in which it was feared that the city’s taps would run dry. Of the 15 cities analyzed by WRI, São Paulo, Brazil; Nairobi, Kenya; and Bengaluru of India, are experiencing severe water shortages.

Bangalore, the poorly accessed

Bengaluru, previously known as Bangalore, in the Indian state of Karnataka, has experienced increased flooding, dry wells, and decreased water availability from the Cauvery basin over the past few years. Karnataka’s three-year drought is associated with 35% less rainfall and “unofficial rationing” in Bengaluru. Some informal neighbourhoods now receive water for less than two hours per day, with reduced pressure and poorer quality. In response, households turn to tanker trucks that source their water from boreholes. Poorly monitored tankers have over-extracted groundwater, causing both the utility and illegal vendors to drill deeper.

With urban expansion and more unplanned settlements, the number of under-served areas is increasing. The challenge for Bengaluru is to achieve integrated water management, which includes improving source protection, groundwater recharge, and drainage management, as well as reducing nonrevenue water.

A holistic scenario

However, across all 15 cities, when weighted by population, approximately 58 percent of households had access to piped water. In Latin American cities, 97% of households received water piped to their dwelling or yard, but there was notable variation within each geographic region. For example, in Cochabamba, as many as 20% of households relied on tanker trucks. In Asia, Dhaka had the highest percentage of households with piped water (95%), but much of it is piped from underground reservoirs or storage tanks, and households must use hand or electric pumps to obtain it. This water is also a mix of utility water and groundwater. In Karachi, 25% of households received their water from tanker trucks, and 34% received it from small vendors or bottled water. In the two Indian cities, households that did not have water piped to their premises relied on surface water, groundwater, and rainwater. In Mumbai, for example, 8% of households relied on surface water, groundwater, and rainwater. Consistent with global figures, on average, cities in sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest rates of water access; less than half of all households received piped water. In Kampala, 70% of households relied on water from public taps, standpipes, and kiosks.

However, the costs of coping with poor-quality water supplies were found to be significantly high for low-income households in both Kenya and India. For example, in India, there was “an increase in the income/cost ratio for low-income households, and coping costs comprised 15% of income for lower-income households, compared to 1% for wealthy households.” 

The Solution

Various startups are already working in this area to provide piped water to all households. In India, some consumers are also using applications like NextDrop, which provides information about when to expect water. However, a recent study of this program found it did not significantly reduce household wait times because of the complexities of collecting and disseminating. 

Efforts are also done at the community level to solve the looming problem of water pollution and access to clean drinking water. For example, residents of Bapa Dayalu Nagar, Bhuj, in India, live in an informal settlement built around a pond that provides water to both humans and animals. The pond became polluted with garbage and weeds. The community used a small project grant of $1,150 to rejuvenate the pond, adding $70 of their funds.

According to the data collected in Colombo by WRI, São Paulo, and Santiago de Cali, and given other experiences in Karnataka, India, it is possible to provide continuous water supply in cities in the global South. There is no single solution to the challenges posed by intermittent water because the causes of it vary according to local conditions. However, the availability of water supplies, accurate and reliable metering, improved infrastructure maintenance, access to sufficient financial resources, and more sophisticated water planning and management all appear key. Although increased transparency and predictability help households manage water-related stress, these solutions do not address the problem of water being contaminated from lost pressure in the piped system (and, in at least one study in India, they did not address the associated user costs).

The report’s author Victoria A Beard says, “Cities need to start thinking about equitable access to water differently. Water is not a commodity. It is a human right and a social good. We know what the solutions are and they are not high tech. Cities need a sustained political commitment and financial investment in physical infrastructure to ensure equitable access to safe, reliable, and affordable water for every urban resident.”

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