Several private water tankers stayed off the roads for the second consecutive day on Wednesday protesting against the restriction on groundwater drawal. Nearly 800 lorries have suspended trips since Tuesday demanding a regularisation of norms for groundwater extraction.
Several lorry operators transporting water to many parts of south Chennai and suburbs such as Avadi and Poonamallee have gone on strike. Murugan, a lorry operator in Poonamallee, said “we are being stopped from drawing water from agricultural borewells. We face frequent checks by revenue authorities in Poonamallee and Ambattur on the grounds of illegal tapping of groundwater. Our business gets affected for at least a fortnight as lorries are seized and we have to pay a fine of Rs.2,000 - Rs.5,000.” The strike was spurred by seizure of two water lorries on Monday in Poonamallee for transporting non-potable water.
With Chennai Metrowater catering primarily to domestic and industrial needs, the private tankers bridge the gap. Some apartment complexes, hotels and hospitals in need of large volume of water are already feeling the impact of the strike. V. Subhasree, a resident of Guindy, said residents opted for private tankers as there is a lot of demand for tanker trips operated by Metrowater. We had to pay more for water transported from a distant area as the lorry operator who usually supplies us refused to ply.”
Hoteliers said that if the strike continued, they would be severely affected.
Private lorry operators draw water from borewells in areas such as Medavakkam, Ponmar, Ambattur and Madhavaram. S. Bharathi of south Chennai private water tanker operators association said the government must allow the tankers to tap water from the licensed borewells to prevent indiscriminate extraction.
Sources in the Tiruvallur collectorate said that they had to enforce stringent measures to curb supply of water of poor quality. “We held meetings in the past two months and asked lorry operators to apply for licences. But, we are yet to receive applications,” said an official. The revenue authorities insist that the water quality be certified by the Water Resources Department (WRD) or Chennai Metrowater.
As of now, there is no proper enforcement mechanism to check exploitation of groundwater. Though the Tamil Nadu Groundwater (Development and Management) Act was conceived several years ago, there is no monitoring agency for sinking of borewells. The Central Groundwater Board, which is the authorised agency, has not done much to curb the commercial exploitation.
However, WRD officials said a proposal has been sent to both Central and State government to empower WRD to monitor the sinking of borewells and regulate tapping of groundwater. The proposal is awaiting approval.
Keywords: water tankers strike