A week of dry spell following two months of heavy rain plunges coastal villages in Ernakulam district into a drinking water crisis

After more than 60 days of copious rains, a week of dry weather has plunged coastal villages such as Chellanam into a drinking water crisis.

Kerala Water Authority (KWA) says there is not enough water to supply to these panchayats because they are located at the end of supply chains.

Hundreds of households, especially those located away from the arterial road that links Ernakulam to Alappuzha district along the coast, depend entirely on the occasional water tankers and erratic piped supply by the KWA, said vice-president of Chellanam panchayat Lucy Rajan.

The problem was most severe in wards 7, 8, 9, 10 and 14 out of the 21 wards, she said. Exasperated by incessant phone calls from angry residents, she said she was taking a large delegation of women from her ward to the KWA office at Karuvelippady on Monday to find a solution to the problem.

However, KWA officials pin the blame on the location of the panchayat at the end of a long supply chain. The panchayat is a strip of 18-km land in the north-south direction at the end of the supply chain that relies on pumping facilities in Karuvelippady, Kumbalanghi and Thoppumpady. As the number of users in the city increased, the quantity of water reaching Chellanam has steadily declined.

The problem of drinking water scarcity in Chellanam can be permanently solved only with the commissioning of the 100 million litres a day water treatment plant at Maradu, expected to be completed in about six months under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), said T. G. Rajasekharan, superintending engineer.

The water supply augmentation project will be able to meet the current demand for around 2.5 million litres of water a day whereas the current supply does not even touch one million litres a day. The KWA is going slow in providing water connections in the area as there is not enough water to supply even to existing customers.

Water tanker lorries were deployed but only mini tankers were able to reach many of the areas, said Mr. Rajasekharan. The extent of water scarcity was evident from a visit to Muthukupuram housing area in Ward 14 of the panchayat, where the residents replenished their supplies from a water tanker that arrived Sunday morning. Rambha Ratheesh, a housewife said the water tanker had arrived after more than a week. However, her claim was contested by the driver of the tanker who said that the supplies have been more regular than that.

Anagha, a Class IX student at St. Mary’s, Fort Kochi, and her younger siblings were busy helping their mother organise the collection of water from the tanker. An old woman was seen hurrying with a 500-litre plastic tank to collect her share of water. Little children too were not spared from the task of briskly organising the collection as there was no prior intimation about the arrival of the tankers.

Esthappan, one of the residents, said water supply was erratic and unreliable and residents of Muthukupuram had a harrowing time organising their lives around the arrival of the water tankers. He said some of the households had rain water reservoirs, which were now badly damaged.

Joseph, a mason, who resides at Gondupramabu, said he had invested more than Rs.30,000 for a pipeline from the main road hoping that the tankers would pump the water using the line. However, the money has gone down the drain.

Several wards in Kumbalanghi panchayat also face serious drinking water shortage after the rains. Wards 1, 2, 3, 14 and 16 are the more seriously affected because they are located away from the main road where tankers come to supply water. Panchayat president Usha Pradeep said a 2,000-litre tanker was now being deployed to supply water as piped supplies have completely ceased. A resident of ward 3 said they had not received piped water over the last six days.

The panchayat president said a request had been submitted to the district authority to provide another water tanker to meet the present situation.

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