Monday, September 6, 2010

Citizen Matters, Bangalore: Bangalore's love-hate relationship with water now on film

Citizen Matters, Bangalore: Bangalore's love-hate relationship with water now on film

Bangalore's love-hate relationship with water now on film
Documentary film 'Water and a City' traces the journey of water into and out of urban Bangalore homes.

By Vaishnavi Vittal 15 Feb 2010, Citizen Mattersbookmark email print
The residents of Kaverinagar in North Bangalore have not received water from the BWSSB for about two years now. But bills from the water board have been delivered regularly. The only relief they have now is because of one of their neighbours Victoria who took it upon herself to help her neighbours by distributing water freely from her borewell.
A kilo litre (1000 litres) of water costs the BWSSB Rs 34, including production, distribution and so on. An average consumer receives this water at a highly subsidised rate, paying around Rs 18 per kilo litre. It's those who purchase them through other means like tankers and pots, who pay a higher price, some even Rs 300 per kilo litre.
Siddikatte tank, Sampangi tank, Dharmabudhi tank, Chennamma tank are now KR Market, Kanteerva stadium, Majestic bus stand and a burial ground respectively.
Forty-two year old Swati Dandekar has documented all this and much more in what could possibly be a first-of-its kind film for Bangalore. Titled 'Water and a City', this documentary film traces the journey of urban water supply in the city. This 52-minute film was screened on February 13th at the Centre for Film and Drama, Millers Road.

A still from the film 'Water and a city' by Swati Dandekar. Courtesy: Swati Dandekar

'Water and a city' is an attempt at presenting the water supply scenario in the Bangalore from a holistic perspective. "As I started to think more about it, I realised there's a vaccum in understanding the holistic picture - in the government, resident welfare associations, etc. Everyone had only their own view", says Swati, who is a Malleshwaram-based independent filmmaker. All of this prompted her to make this film to bring in various aspects related to water supply in Bangalore including social, economic, legal and environmental challenges.
For a city that receives about 500 million litres of water per day as opposed to the required 1000 million litres per day, Swati's film reiterates ground realities. From the time of Bangalore's dependence on the northern Arkavathy to the more recent Cauvery Water Supply Projects, the cost of water to the lack of water supply itself, improper sewerage treatment to sustainable water solutions like rainwater harvesting, the film delves into all these and more.

Swati Dandekar. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal

Incidentally, as the film itself disclaims towards the end, the BWSSB did not participate in the film. This, after more than four months of chasing after BWSSB officials, for interviews and permissions to shoot on their locations, says Swati. "I tried telling them that my critique is not against them but is more at a systemic level. They feared I'll say negative things about them". Swati also could not speak to the city's BWSSB in-charge minister Katta Subramanya Naidu. But she says she received a lot of inputs from other government departments, who gave her information 'off the record'.
Swati also spoke to former municipal corporators who did not think actively about water issues because they felt they have no say in BWSSB, also thanks to the absence of a city council.
DVDs of 'Water and a city' are available for sale.

To purchase or organise a screening of the film, Swati Danekar can be contacted at svati22[at]gmail[dot]com or waterandacity[at]

A Kannada version of the film will be available in a month's time

The film took Swati about a year to make and she says the experience has been very interesting. "It all adds to your own understanding of the subject. But it was a struggle to get it all together in one film". The film follows a narrative format, interspersed with sound bytes and music. The title song was composed by Siddarama Kesapura, the Bangalore! Bangalore! song by Janardhana Kesaragadde, who is also the song writer, and the background score by Jatin Vidyarthi.
Swati says that through the film she hopes people understand the complex relationship that cities have with natural resources especially water. "But there are ways in which something can be done. You have to start thinking of ways more seriously. You need to get this full picture before you start to look for solutions", she emphasises, adding that this film will also make sense for other cities and not just Bangalore, since water supply needs to be looked at in an integrated way.
As one of the interviewees in the film, Joseph Arogyaswamy, standing near the depleting Hessarghatta lake (which last filled up in 1998), says, "What will you do in the future? Can you buy water from the market?" ⊕
Vaishnavi Vittal
15 Feb 2010
Vaishnavi Vittal is a staff journalist with Citizen Matters.

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