Bangalore: Last year was bad for Karnataka. This year could be worse if nature does not turn benevolent. After a failed monsoon, winter has been elusive and there is warning of a dire scarcity of water in the days to come, even for capital Bangalore.
The poor monsoon has left three-fourths of the state reeling under drought and most of the reservoirs half empty.
The storage in the two reservoirs, Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) and Kabini, which are the major water source for Bangalore, has reached alarmingly low levels, prompting the BJP government to talk of the need to ration water for the capital's over eight million population.
KRS reservoir in Mandya district is about 130 km from Bangalore and Kabini in Mysore district 200 km.
However, with assembly elections due in May, the government retracted on possibility of water rationing but has appealed to Bangaloreans to judiciously use the resource to ensure that the supply lasts till the monsoon season begins in June.
Water Resources Minister Basavaraj Bommai had created a scare among Bangaloreans, and also given a big stick to the opposition to beat his government, by stating earlier this week that water needed to be rationed for the city and a decision would be announced soon.
Such a decision would have been disastrous for the ruling BJP, particularly in Bangalore as the city continues to reel under the garbage mess that started last July.
The BJP had won 17 of the 28 assembly seats from Bangalore in the last polls in May 2008, when it came to power for the first time in the state. The assembly has 225 seats, including one nominated member.
Two years later the party also captured power in the Bangalore civic body, the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike or Greater Bangalore City Corporation).
Realising that the political cost could be too heavy if water rationing is implemented, Bommai and Law Minister S. Suresh Kumar, who also handles the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), have sought to douse panic spreading among Bangaloreans over water shortage.
At the same time, both stressed that water availability for the city till next monsoon was at the bare minimum and wise usage was essential.
The figures Bommai reeled off over the water levels at KRS and Kabini painted a grim picture.
Together, the two reservoirs have just about 18 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet). Of this, live storage - or the water that can be drawn - is 10 tmcft.
Bangalore alone needs 7.5 tmcft of water till May at 1.5 tmcft every month. That leaves only 2.5 tmcft to meet the needs of people in Mysore, Mandya and Ramanagaram districts till May. Ramanagaram and Mandya are 40 km and 80km away from Bangalore on way to Mysore, which is about 130 km from here.
Bommai said this quantum of water would be sufficient to meet the needs of these three districts.
Since the situation is grim, the government has set up a panel headed by water resources department secretary to daily monitor Bangalore's water needs.
While the water scarcity is alarming, the winter too has eluded Bangaloreans.
But for a few days in early November and December, there has been no need for woollens as the temperature has been above average.
It has been particularly bad in Bangalore as day temperature has been three to five degrees above the average of around 25 degrees Celsius for this time of the year.
The weather is bound to get warmer from Monday onwards as the sun begins its northward journey - not a pleasing prospect as the state prepares to celebrate the Makar Sankranti harvest festival on Jan 14.