As borewells run dry, officials dig deeper in search of water

Madurai was one of the few cities in the state that could claim to have never faced a drinking water shortage even in peak summer.

Now that is changing. Today, the temple city is gripped by acute water scarcity, and its residents are agitated. Since early March, there have been road blocks and picketing of official residences, including the camp office of the Collector.

The city’s elders were apprehensive that Madurai was rapidly heading towards becoming an arid wasteland. They recalled that, save for some pockets in interior Usilampatti and Perayur belts, or around Avaniapuram and beyond Melur, water was not a problem in most localities. With the water table sinking across the district, the borewells are running dry, according to TWAD Board engineers. Alternatives are being worked out, but not quickly enough. Residents are in no mood to listen to empty official assurances.

The comments aimed at officialdom are telling. “Taps are mere ornamental pieces,” “Taps are nothing more than a child’s toy.”

Officials retort by saying, “People rush to buy water, but also gold.”

The district administration says it is addressing the water crisis on a war footing. Presiding over a joint meeting involving all officials and representatives from the Corporation, TWAD Board, PWD, Rural Development, Local Bodies Block Development Officers and Panchayats, Collector Anshul Mishra, along with his core team, devised a ‘water management plan’ exclusively for Madurai.

As a first step, the district’s need was assessed geographically. The bone-dry pockets were spotted. The borewells were inspected and depending on the availability, it was either deepened or new ones were dug.

For residential localities, where the water sources had gone dry, water distribution was planned through water tankers.

The population was studied for this purpose and, accordingly, potable water delivered at the doorstep. The question of how to reach the masses arose.

Special Cell

The officials established a special cell wherein the public can complain about their water needs by disclosing their name, address et al. The exercise, which began from March 27, started working step-by-step, Mr. Mishra said. The water management is in place. “My sincere appeal to the public is to use water judiciously. I am confident that the crisis can be overcome.” The information kiosk at the Collector’s office can be reached at 0452 2526888 and 2521444 during office hours and on all working days. The Corporation of Madurai can be reached at 0452 2530433. Public can also inform at 72006 50582, officials said and added that Facebook of Madurai Collector too received complaints.

In the last three weeks beginning March 27, the Collector’s core team staff members handling water-related complaints said that 442 calls were attended to and so far 87 per cent was attended on receipt. Calls received in the morning were first registered and passed on to the jurisdiction officers concerned for further action. The time taken to deliver was followed and recorded.

The district was categorised as urban, rural, village panchayat, town panchayat and municipalities. Interestingly, the complaints of non-availability of water were very high only in zone two of Madurai Corporation, while on the other hand there was no complaint from municipalities. Baffled, the officials said that either the people were unaware of such a special cell functioning, or they should be having sufficient water. There were 38 complaints from village panchayats and three from town panchayats till date. Complaints of theft of water and illegal sucking through motors was high from areas such as Melamadai, Gomathipuram, K. Pudur, Tahsildar Nagar, Sellur in the city and Melur, Kottampatti, Chockanathapuram and others.

When power is off

According to a local body official, in Aritappatti near Melur, the water distribution through taps was carried out only after the electricity was switched off in the locality. In Tahsildar Nagar and Sadasiva Nagar, when some residents resisted the move of officials to check for illegal tapping, police assistance was sought, another official recalled. In a surprise drive in Sellur on a single day, 13 motors were seized, they noted. Apart from this, complaints of gutter water mixing, tap leakages in Kochadai and Simakkal were received and duly attended. There were also calls from Kottampatti that some people indulged in selling packet water, which was brown in colour as the alternative to drinking water. The district administration has appealed to the public not to buy them, but urged people to report the matter to officials.

COLLECTOR’S OFFICE: 0452 2526888, 2521444 and 72006 50582

CORPORATION: 0452 2530433 and on Facebook.

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