There is something about borewells being bored. Something really frustrating. Annoying. Infuriating. They start with a “Drrrr” sound that goes on for close to 20-30 minutes as it bores deep into the ground. This is then followed by a sudden silence. You sigh, take a deep breath and then brace yourself for the massive “Chsssssssh” that follows as it lets loose everything that it has gathered from underneath before it starts again. The entire area in a 200m radius is bathed in fine dust – including bike, car, clothes hung up to dry outside and to a good extent the TV stand, TV and every other piece of furniture inside the house.
So it was with not little trepidation, a fair bit of annoyance and a tinge of anger that I noticed a boring truck drawing up by the opposite site- not exactly opposite, but the site right next to the opposite one. This one came with another support truck which pulled up right in front of our house, pissing me off even more! We have a nice canopy formed by two trees growing on opposite sides of the road and it annoys me no end when a truck that is too tall passes through and disturbs the trees. The fact that the owners had cut down a tree in front of their site (the other side, not any of the ones near my house) sealed the deal and I could only hate these future neighbours from now on. I had walked home that evening angry and raging about complaining to the forest department only for my father to remind me that the neighbour of that site is a BBMP engineer, so they definitely had “buy-in”.
Either way, I walked out, signaled to the workers crouching by the support-truck parked in front of our house and asked them when they’d stop. “By 10 PM” they promised. I wanted to remind them that the last time a boring well had gone past 10:30, the legal limit, I had called the cops on it. Whether the cops turned up or not I don’t know, but the boring did stop at 11:15 PM, some 10 minutes after my second call to the Police. They were prompt in following up the next morning though. The chief guy came up, all smiling and cordial. He had parked his Activa behind my car blocking any little space we had for getting out and was all apologetic about it. “When will you finish today?” I asked. “As long as it takes” he answered, still smiling. I narrowed my brows, waiting to unleash the P-word and legal time limits. But he seemed to get what I was looking for and said “By 10 PM we will be stopping though”.
I started the damage control. The car got covered, the clothes were brought in, any open windows were closed. They soon began the drilling. Thank God for little mercies, it was at as opposite a corner of the site as we could hope for and we were going to be among the least affected. The support-truck was also positioned to be shielding us. “Drr-rr-rr-rr-…” it started. The cat had been sleeping on the neighbour’s window shade oblivious to all these happenings and was suddenly woken up by the sound of the world ending. She ran towards our house with agitated meows and then followed the logical path of reducing noise and went behind our house.
I tried working for a while, and after the end of the day, went for a run by the lake. Any escape from noise was welcome. There was no conversation to be had at home. As much as we had closed down everything, the noise was still heavy and we could barely make ourselves heard. Anything that required more than one sentence to convey was considered not worth the effort, and reality for the rest of the day entered Twitter-verse.
Around 7:30 PM I decided to check on the cat and went to the back of the house. She sensed my presence and came running out from the dark meowing non-stop. The constant noise had clearly agitated her and she was restless and scared. With the cat winding around my legs I went in and got her her usual cup of diluted milk. She wasn’t in any mood to drink anything and kept at her meowing. I led her to the back of the house hoping she’ll climb the wall and go somewhere quieter- luxuries people with walled territories don’t have. She climbed up a few times, looked at me and came back to rub against my legs. I figured she wanted me to come along. Not in any mood or shape to scale walls, window shades and jump terraces I walked back. After a few minutes of meowing for me, she went on her way alone.
At 9 PM the noise stopped. I asked the workers if they were going to resume. “Tomorrow morning” they assured me. The cat came back and finished her milk. We went out to do some damage assessment. The wind had been good to us. The houses on the other side were all white, the road in front of them looked like it had been snowed on, but without any of it’s heaviness or prettiness. This was just fine white dust and looked desolate. No calls to any Police was required. I figured this being closer to residential houses than the previous one, they had decided not to take chances with angry public.
The next morning I left early. They had started their drilling by 6:45 AM! I returned home at 4 PM and they were still on! I was told that they had taken a break for a few hours midway. We went out and the contractor (the Activa guy from the previous afternoon) said that they had hit water only at 700 ft. I winced. “We’ll put 3 more pipes and then we are done” he said. Each pipe was 20 Ft. So that would be a total depth of 760 ft! Houses in this locality had wells of around 400 to 500 ft and they had all dried up. The newer bores were going down to 700-800 Ft now for water. What happens when those also dry up?
This year the CMC (City Municipal Council) which supplies water to the area has barely managed to send down a trickle every week. Noisy water tankers are the norm everywhere. Deficient monsoons have not helped either. Letting people bore as deep as they want is definitely not a solution for the long term. When will we realize that ground water is a public resource and not a private one? When you own a plot of land, how much under it is yours? Surely you can’t go all the way till the Pacific or the USA! Maybe restricting it to some 400-500 Ft would be a good place to start. Ideally I would like to see a blanket ban on boring wells in places where a registered authority like the CMC or a flat association is supplying water for you. You can’t have a water connection and bore your own well! At some point Bangalore needs to move towards managed resources and ground water should be on the top of the list. More than anything well-boring is a public nuisance and should be banned in residential areas that already have people living nearby. You can’t let your plot lie around and suddenly wake up and drill a bore there, inconveniencing every man, woman and cat in the neighbourhood. But then in a city where civic sense is becoming increasingly rare and quality of life is plummeting fast, most basic and common things are becoming way too much to ask for.