Five years after the installation of about 160 rooftop solar water heaters in BDA apartments in Jnanabharathi Layout in Kengeri, most of these water heaters are left unused.
Reason: residents of these apartments, most of them belonging to economically weaker sections, are unwilling to pay ?23,000 and get the solarheated water connection. Only two families have got the connection while it remains unaffordable for the remaining houses.
The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) developed around 1,500 low-budget single bedroom apartments in Kengeri in two phases and they were occupied in 2013 and 2015. Soon after the construction, the BDA installed solar water systems on the rooftops of these buildings as the state government mandates their installation for getting a Bescom power connection.
The BDA spent about ?35 lakh to instal the solar water-heating systems in the 38 blocks but restricted the facility to the flats on the top most floors (it thought making the lower floors share the water would lead to quarrels). The one-time cost demanded was ?23,000.
“Nobody wants to pay the huge amount and get hot water. Our rooftops are full of these panels but they are useless,” said Vanishree M, who lives on a top floor, said. She, like the rest, has rejected BDA’s offer.
The lower-middle-class families see the facility as an expensive affair. “Back then nobody was interested in paying the amount in bulk and get the connection. Now these panels are old and require servicing. Residents would naturally prefer new solar panels installed on their own by paying EMIs. When we get a two-year warranty for new solar water heater systems why do we spend so much on an old system?” said N Premkumar, president of the Bharati Vikas Ganga Yamuna Residents’ Welfare Association that covers 640 houses.
Realising that the solar system could end up as a total loss, the BDA is now contemplating extending connections to families on lower floors. The other option is to reduce the cost.
BDA commissioner Rakesh Singh said that he was aware of the issue. “It is the same with other BDA apartments too which are meant for EWS families. The solar heaters have become non-starters as we are insisting on a certain price. I am thinking of revising the amount. There has to be a meeting point where we don’t lose money and residents get the right benefits,” Singh said.
He said that the agency would convene a meeting with stakeholders and convince them since it is in the larger interest.