In areas where residents have vacated, the rent for the vacant houses has come down

For S. Saroja, who resided in Madurai till a year back, water scarcity took a serious toll on her health. “Carrying pots of water from tankers to home every day resulted in health complications. We relocated to Chennai because the water crisis never seemed to end,” she says.

The city is witnessing a trend where persons have begun to shift from areas reeling under water scarcity. Though rains in the beginning of May brought up the level of the Vaigai dam to 32 feet and enabled the civic body to maintain water supply to the residents, the groundwater level is going down and down in many areas.

“People living in Anna Nagar, Gomathipuram, Yagappa Nagar and Vandiyur have begun to shift to other localities owing to water shortage,” says realtor N. Kannan. “Areas such as Sakkimangalam, Karuppayoorani, Oomachikulam and Kadachanendal don’t have much problem of water scarcity and are preferred for relocation,” he adds.

In areas where residents have vacated and left, the rent for the vacant houses has come down. People selling land in water-starved areas have found no takers, says the realtor.

“House owners who were charging Rs 10,000 as rent now charge only Rs. 6,000 since the occupants have to spend extra on water,” S.V. Pathi, a resident of Gomathipuram and president of the Centre for Environmental Sciences, says.

“But at least 40 per cent of the residents in Gomathipuram have moved out in the last three years owing to water shortage. One cent of land is sold for as low as Rs 6 lakh in our area and yet it has no takers since prospective buyers are very much aware of the water problem,” he adds.

Rising expenses

Private tankers charge up to Rs. 900 for a 6,000-litre load of water whereas last year it did not exceed Rs. 650. Many residents say they shell out Rs. 3 for one pot of water.

“While we have to pay Rs. 3 for a pot of salt water which we use to complete our household chores, a pot of drinking water costs much more. Often we are forced to recycle soapy water to wash clothes,” rues a resident of Sadasaivam Nagar.

Residents of these areas say many house owners are unwilling to reduce the rent. “We are spending a minimum of Rs. 3,000 on water every month. Since we also have education expenses for our children, many of us are struggling to make both ends meet,” says R. Amudha, a resident of Thiru- Vi-ka- Nagar.

People say carrying water to their houses has brought a host of health problems. “Many of us here have joint pain and back ache due to lifting up pots every day. There are men and women in our street who lift pots and climb up three floors at least four times a day,” says A. Adhilakshmi, a resident of Kalaignar Nagar.

“Even though most of our houses have borewells which once pumped water, we can’t afford to deepen them. The middle class has been the most affected,” she laments.

Residents of these areas are hoping for a good spell of rain this year. In 2013, Public Works Department officials said the district recorded only 590.95 mm of rainfall against the normal measure of 847.5 mm.

“In areas where the residents are able to get groundwater, the quality has also deteriorated. Like the residents who are still holding on to their houses and land in the water-starved areas, all we can do is hope for a change,” Mr. Pathi says.

Giving some hope, the city had a sudden shower on Sunday evening.

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