JICA, KWA trade blame at Valiyathura for water crisis

For the past eight months, Leela has been walking close to a kilometre to fetch water from a public tap. It is a plight shared by more than 10,000 others along the two-kilometre Valiyathura coastline which stretches from Kochuthoppu to the Valiyathura pier.

“It is quite an effort for us to walk this distance with buckets and pots, several times a day. Fishworkers have to do this job too now. We do not have big demands, just a request for pure drinking water,” says Ms.Leela.

The drinking water pipeline and taps along this coast were swept away by the ocean waves, this past monsoon. Since then, it has been a constant struggle to get drinking water in this thickly populated region. One can see PVC pipes of the old supply line strewn all across the coastline.

The Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) laid new pipelines along the coast, four months ago, at a cost of Rs.24 lakh. The plan was to install taps every 50 metres along the coast.

“We sat on a dharna at the water authority office and sent representations at various levels to get it going. The people here were so happy when the work on the pipelines started. But it ended up being a case of so near, yet so far,” says Tony Oliver, councillor of Valiyathura ward.

Once the JICA finished work on the mainline, things came to a standstill. A blame game ensued between the JICA and the Kerala Water Authority (KWA). The residents are still not sure whose responsibility it is to give connections to taps.

Prakash Idicula, Executive Engineer of PH Division, KWA, told The Hindu that the JICA must give connections since it had laid the pipes. “When it was proposed to lay new pipes along the coast, we submitted an estimate to the District Collector. As we did not have funds, it was decided to entrust JICA with the work. They should finish it,” says Mr. Idicula.

Mr. Oliver says that the JICA officials want KWA to give the connections.

“They completed the pipe-laying work in just four days. After that, four months have passed and still there is no water,” he says.