Archive | May, 2013

How much is Water Supply subsidised in Bangalore?

Continuing from yesterday’s post about introducing crisis pricing of water in Bangalore, here’s the real picture of how water gets subsidised for all residents of the city who receive municipal supply.

Subsidised Water in Bangalore

It turns out that a family of five using the national norm for urban water supply – 135 litres per person per day (LPCD) receives a whopping subsidy of Rs. 9,500 a year! A household using 200 litres per person per day in the city – quite common – receives an even higher subsidy Rs. 13,790 a year! Compare this to the LPG subsidy that the same households will receive: it clocks in at a much lower Rs. 2,800 a year (at Rs. 320 subsidy per cylinder of LPG and 9 cylinders per year). While LPG subsidies need to be reduced and its prices rationalised, I’ll leave it to the readers to see how much air time each issue has received thus far.

As the chart shows, even the maximum price of water levied is lower than the operational costs, so the more profligate a consumer, the higher the subsidy they receive. And this is a rather conservative estimate – one that does not include how the city’s sewerage is also subsidised, nor the heavy capital costs that go into building the infrastructure for the city’s water supply.

And we wonder why we have a crisis around water almost everywhere in the country.

Water tariffs from the BWSSB are available here, and this is the source of the operational cost of  water provision in Bangalore.

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Introduce Crisis Pricing for Water

Bangalore appears to be heading an unprecedented water crisis with plummeting water levels in the KRS reservoir and weak river flows in the Hemavathi. Afshan Yasmeen from The Hindu tells us that the city may have only 20 days of water left, unless the rains relieve us:

Predicting that the city will plunge into unprecedented water crisis if it doesn’t rain in the next few days, the official said at least 2.6 tmcft water is needed to cope till the monsoon arrives. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has also been briefed, the official said.

“If more water from the Hemavathi is not released, we may have to draw water from the dead storage. This requires preparation and precautions as it will be the first time that the dead storage will be touched,” the official said.

Pointing out that Bangalore needs 1,250 mld, he appealed to people to use water judiciously. “We also want people to come up with suggestions on how to manage the situation,” he added. The Hindu, May 16, 2013
[Emphasis added]

With all of Bangalore’s water woes, it must be mentioned that the city has a better history of water management than most other places in India. Managing water is not just about ensuring supply, but also includes the management of demand – of ensuring that people do not waste precious, scarce resources. For one, Bangalore remains one of very few cities in the country which has metered the water connections of most of its residents, ensuring that there is volumetric pricing for water – where people only pay as per the amount of water they use.

Unfortunately, this is far from sufficient. Though water has been priced, it isn’t sufficient to recover even the operational costs of supplying water – let alone manage demand effectively. Though the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has a slab-wise increasing tariff, even the most profligate of consumers pay only Rs. 36 per 1000 litres of water. In comparison, the BWSSB ends up spending about Rs. 48* for the same amount – essentially giving a subsidy of at least 12 rupees per kilo-litre to the richest of Bangaloreans.

Pricing water is always a contentious issue, with politicians and officials wary about increasing tariffs for fear of a popular backlash. However, Bangalore is facing a severe crisis here and every drop of water saved counts. If the state has to draw water from the dead storage at KRS, the costs will be tremendously higher. It is only fair that the users of this water bear their fair share of the costs, instead of off-loading them onto the taxpayer.

It is imperative that the government introduces crisis pricing of water and hike up the rates to ensure its judicious use. Every unit of water from BWSSB that gets wasted is another unit of water that needs to be bought from water tankers – at five to ten times the price. By increasing the municipal tariffs and preventing people from using water for frivolous things like daily car washing, the state can actually up reducing the total cost people spend on domestic water in Bangalore.

We pay more for fruits and vegetables when they are not in season, and we pay even more for them when they are in very short supply. Already there is increasing consensus for introducing electricity prices that are time-dependent: where consumption during peak load hours is more expensive than the rest. Why shouldn’t we pay more for water in the summer, and even more when the city is facing an unprecedented crisis? It is time to let the residents of the city pitch in during a time of trouble.

*The approximate costs for the operational cost of supplying water, after leakage and distribution losses. This does not include all the expenses on building the supply infrastructure, nor does it factor in the externality of pollution and loss to the ecology of the river basin that the supply of water causes.

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In Search of a New Village

The south Indian state of Karnataka has over 29,000 villages spread across a 190,000 square kilometres. Anyone who travels a little in the state quickly realises that there are common village names that keep recurring. Using the Census 2011 village directory for the state, here’s a comprehensive look at the most common village names in Karnataka.

It turns out that the most common village name in Karnataka is Hosahalli – or simply, ‘New Village’. Hosahalli is the complete name of about 108 villages, and forms a part of the name for another 82 (For example, Chikkahosahalli, which means ‘small new village’). Curiously enough, the second most village name is Hosur, which is a variant of the former and also means ‘New Village’. A possible reason as to why this has come about is that as villages grew in size, people might have shifted to an adjacent site and created a new settlement, perhaps a couple of miles from the original village. In conversation, this new settlement would be referred to as just that – new village or new place –  until one day the name got formalised in an inscription or an agreement, and the name Hosahalli or Hosur became permanent.

Other common village names include Bommanahalli, Gollahalli (village of cowherds), Kurubarahalli (village of shepherds), Siddapura and Basavanahalli (dedicated to the reformer Basavanna).

Most Common Village Names in Karnataka

Different words are used to denote a village or settlement as well – from hallis to puras to nagaras. Of these, halli and ooru are of a Dravidian origin, with halli being equivalent of palli in Tamil, while most of the others are borrowed or adapted from Sanskrit. Pura is said to denote a walled town and nagara a town or a city, but they were often used quite interchangeably while naming villages and towns, even historically. Villages are also named after local features like lakes (kere, sandra) and fortresses (kote), as well as after gods and goddesses.

Most Common types and Parts of Village Names in Karnataka

So there you have it. If you are thinking of starting a new settlement in Karnataka, you couldn’t go wrong by calling it the unimaginative, but eminently serviceable Hosahalli or Hosuru. I’ll take them over the Residencies, Enclaves and Gardens that have come up in Bangalore, any day.

Many thanks to Shreevatsa and Mohan KV for an erudite discussion on the meaning of village names, their origins and their use. Kudos to Karthik for suggesting the perfect name for the post.

Addendum. This post drew a flurry of fascinating conversations on twitter and elsewhere today. On popular demand, below is a more complete (and revised!) list of suffixes in village names in Karnataka. You can also download the raw data used in this post from here.

Most Common suffixes and prefixes of Village Names in Karnataka

 

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Bangalore refuses to turn up and vote

[This post used data from the website of the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka, which was subsequently revised the next day. As per the revised numbers, Bangalore urban showed a turnout of 57.4%, a full 7.5 percentage points greater than the 2008 assembly elections. This improvement cannot be disregarded as trivial, thus the argument made by the original post is no longer valid.]

In the face of high expectations, the residents of Bangalore yet again failed to turn up and vote in large numbers in yesterday’s assembly elections. With 52.8% of the Bangalore Urban district’s voters casting their vote yesterday, it was only a marginal improvement over 2008 – when 46.9% of the district’s voters had turned up. This is but a marginal increase of 5.9 percentage points, which can perhaps be explained away to a great extent by the simple fact that the elections took place on a Sunday.

Voter Turnout 2013 Karnataka Assembly Elections

The capital city’s voter turnout was well below the state average of 70.2 percent. Curiously, the maximum turnout was seen in the adjoining Bangalore Rural district – at 77.95 percent. The only other districts with their polling numbers in 50s and early 60s percentages were Bidar, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Bijapur and Raichur – something that could be because of the high summer temperatures there.

The map was created using Gramener’s excellent map tool. Polling data was obtained from the Karnataka Election Commission website courtesy of Citizen Matters.

Update. As my fellow blogger Karthik pointed out, the previous assembly elections in Bangalore took place on a Saturday. Therefore, the weekend explanation for a greater turnout could be invalid. Also – while Bangalore as a whole shows a low turnout, it is certainly possible that individual constituencies showed much higher turnouts. It will be interesting to watch the numbers for constituencies with candidates endorsed by BPAC and those with strong Loksatta campaigns and see how well they fared.

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