City residents’ relief at having packaged drinking water supply resumed on Monday was short-lived, as they soon found they had to shell out at least Rs. 5 more for a 20-litre bubbletop can.

The increasing demand in summer combined with a shortage of packaged water due to the recent strike has led to the price hike.

Last week, packaged drinking water units in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts, went on a strike protesting the closure of 92 units by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB). TNPCB had shut down these units for not having valid licenses to operate.

Though the strike was called off on Saturday, supply of packaged drinking water resumed only on Monday.

However, several residents were perplexed about the sudden hike in the prices of water cans that ranged from Rs. 5 to Rs. 15, depending on the locality.

While in areas such as Sowcarpet, Arumbakkam and Anna Nagar the price of a bubbletop can was increased from Rs. 30 to Rs. 35, people in other areas, including Adyar and Injambakkam, had to pay nearly Rs. 15 more.

Kamala Nirmal, a resident of Korattur, said that her retailer charged Rs. 5 more per bubbletop can as there was a huge demand. “I don’t have any choice but to pay him the extra amount. The groundwater quality in my area is poor and water supplied by Chennai Metrowater is not enough,” she said.

The cost of water sachets has also doubled.

With production from the 92 units suspended, the city now only receives 70 per cent of the nearly 3 crore litres of packaged drinking water provided daily. Of this, about 2 crore litres are provided in bubbletop cans.

Manufacturers of packaged drinking water however said that only a few of the 217 industries now functioning have hiked costs, and this was only to cope with the extra expenditure caused due to power cuts. “Some unit-holders want to cash in on the demand as the competition has come down now. But retailers are making the most of this situation,” said V. Murali, patron of the Tamil Nadu Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers Association.

Members of the association plan to approach the court to revoke the National Green Tribunal’s directive to have the 92 units shut. Over the past decade, the packaged drinking water industry has grown by leaps and bounds, to fill in the gap created by Chennai Metrowater.

At present, Chennai Metrowater is able to provide only 830 million litres of water daily, as against the city’s demand of 1,100 million litres a day. Packaged drinking water and private water tanker suppliers bridge this gap to some extent.

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