The famed tourism resort of Kovalam is just a stone’s throw from Muttakad, a tiny hamlet atop a hill in the Venganoor panchayat, about 15 km from here.

But the foreigners cycling past or the five-star hotels further down the hill belie the living conditions of the people here. They get water, for drinking and other purposes as well, only once in 12 days.

“This is the situation in most of the panchayats in the district,” says district panchayat vice-president Rufus Daniel.

K. Balan, secretary of KS Residents’ Association on KS Road here and a resident of the area for over three decades, gives a clearer picture: “Water comes through the KWA pipes only once in 12 days, and that too not at specified timings.

“We have to keep the taps open all the time. And, it does not last for more than an hour or so.”

“There are many dairy farmers among the 400 families here and to keep our livestock alive, we buy water from private parties at Rs.400 per 1,000 litre. If this is the situation now, we shudder to think how it would be in April-May,” he says.

J.L. Binu, district panchayat member, shows us one of the largest ponds in Muttakad, filled with weeds and polluted, and says the situation of such ponds has dissuaded farmers as well, with cultivation and animal husbandry taking a back seat owing to shortage of water.

The only water tank in Muttakad is of 50,000-litre capacity, constructed way back in the late 70s, when the number of house connections was barely 20.

Now, though the KS Residents’ Association itself has over 400 members, the tank and the pipelines remain the same. Moreover, Mr. Balan says, the pumping line from the Vellayani Lake via the Vandithadam filtering tank has several illegal connections from the line, thus robbing legitimate consumers of whatever little water they would have got.

According to Mr. Binu, the panchayat’s problems would be eased to some extent after two major projects are implemented– a NABARD-assisted Rs.22-crore drinking water project for Venganoor, Vizhinjam and Kalliyoor panchayats and a Rs.15-crore project of the Tourism Department that will augment water supply for the Kovalam beach as well as the panchayat as a whole.

But both projects would depend on when the panchayat can find land for a tank.

Efforts are on, for which Rs.15 lakh has been set aside, but land owners are quoting prices too high, he said.