Tanker lorries have evolved as the metaphor of flopped urban planning in Kochi.

From providing drinking water to millions of residents, especially those in high-rise buildings and apartment complexes, to cleaning up the septic waste from residential as well as commercial units, these heavy vehicles have become an essential part of the city life. Despite the allegations that some tanker lorries were providing impure water from some polluted sources, millions of city dwellers are forced to depend on them as the administrators have failed to deliver.

Of late, the district administration has been toying with the idea of hiring tanker lorries for providing drinking water to the drought-hit areas of the district. The Kochi Corporation had been hiring these vehicles for years to provide drinking water to areas experiencing water scarcity. Each year, a considerable amount is pocketed by the private water suppliers as the Kerala Water Authority, the official water supplier of the State, is struggling to meet the demand.

For nearly two decades, the residents of Vypeen Island had been queuing up on the dusty island roads every day for these vehicles to come with drinking water. Like the islanders, the residents of the high-rises too are forced to depend on the water provided by the tanker lorries as the laws governing the Kerala Water Authority states that only one domestic connection can be provided to a building no matter the number of families residing there.

Kochi city, which is waiting for the Kochi metro to roll on, is lacking in basic infrastructure facilities, including water supply schemes and sewage treatment facilities. An earlier assessment revealed that the existing sewage treatment system, which was established 60 years ago, could cover only five per cent of the city landscape.

Though the city population has increased manifold over the past decades, the municipal administrators could not even add an inch of pipeline to the existing sewage treatment system, it was pointed out.

The residents of the city had no other option but to depend on tanker lorries to clean up the overflowing septic tanks. The toilet waste collected by the tanker lorries are often emptied in vacant plots or drains in the city. There were also instances where the tanker lorries drained out septic waste in some water bodies in the city.

The expansion of the existing sewage treatment plant at Elamkulam remains a non-starter as the State government and the civic body are finding it difficult to raise funds for its implementation.

Though funds are available for the proposal of the Kochi corporation for setting up a sewage treatment plant at Mundanveli, it is caught in a legal battle as the civic body reclaimed a wetland and reportedly destroyed the mangrove vegetation there. Now, the civic body is planning to approach the High Court of Kerala with a compensatory mangrove afforestation project to vacate the stay on the Mundanveli project.

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