Impoverished residents in the coastal village of Vizhinjam barely two kilometres away from the Kovalam international beach resort dread the summer. Every year, they are forced to shell out most of their meagre daily earnings for drinking water supplied in tanker lorries.
An average family in the fishing village spends about Rs.1,000 a month on water. The village is almost entirely dependent on a fleet of tanker lorries that make a killing from supplying water during the hot months. Piped water has remained a distant dream here.
With no water supply scheme, the people are forced to depend on polluted sources, ignoring health hazards. Epidemics like cholera stalk the crowded colonies. Water-logging and accumulation of garbage add to the risk.
Predictions of a severe drought have only added to their woes. Tanker operators have jacked up their prices to take advantage of the acute shortage of water throughout the district. A pot of water, which used to sell for Rs.2, now costs Rs.3.
The residents have no idea of where the water supplied by tankers is sourced from or whether it is potable. With most of the families depending on fishing, fishermen have to be supplied with potable water to prevent dehydration at sea.
“During the lean season, a fisherman earns hardly Rs.50 a day, out of which at least Rs.30 is spent on water that is often hard and brackish. We have no idea where the water is collected from. It is probably sourced from a dirty canal or an abandoned quarry, who knows?” laments T.Peter, State president of the Kerala Swathantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (KSMTF).
“Most of us are aware of the health hazards of contaminated water but in the absence of a piped water supply scheme, we are forced to take the risk. It is ironic that the residents in Vizhinjam have to shell out so much money for water transported in tanker lorries when the swimming pools at the Kovalam beach resort nearby have adequate water supply from the Aruvikkara reservoir. Extending the pipeline towards Vizhinjam across a distance of just two km would be a good option. But a section of officials who are hand in glove with the tanker lorry operators have torpedoed the proposal,” he alleged.
On Monday, the Theeradesa Mahila Vedi, the women's wing of KSMTF took out a march to the Secretariat demanding government intervention to resolve water scarcity at Vizhinjam. The protestors brandished empty pots to highlight their demand. The women vented their ire by hurling the pots over the police barricade into the Secretariat premises.
Inaugurating the protest, Mr. Peter demanded free supply of drinking water to the parched coastal areas. He said the federation would be forced to spearhead an agitation if the Government continued to turn a deaf ear to its pleas.
Leaders of KSMTF and Theeradesa Mahila Vedi addressed the protestors.
KSMTF submitted a memorandum to Minister for Water Resources N.K.Premachandran urging the government to resolve the water scarcity in the densely populated coastal belt.