The 100-MLD (million litres a day) Minjur desalination plant, which is being inaugurated by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on Saturday, is said to be the largest plant in the country.

A senior official of the Chennai Metrowater says that there are some plants in Gujarat and their capacity is in the range of 30-40 MLD.

Though desalination plants, as a source of water supply to Chennai, are nothing new, the Minjur plant would be the first seawater desalination facility for the city. In the last 15 years, smaller capacity plants were commissioned in different localities of the city where brackish groundwater was treated and made potable.

When the city was in the grip of an acute water shortage during 2001-2004, the AIADMK government proposed a desalination plant project. It was decided to execute the project on DBOOT (Design, Build, Own, Operate and Transfer) basis. In September 2005, a bulk water purchase agreement was signed between the Metrowater and the special purpose vehicle, Chennai Water Desalination Limited. The DMK government, which assumed office in May 2006, has been closely monitoring the project execution.

Asked about the arrangements for distribution of water to people of the city, the official replies that 10 MLD would be earmarked for Manali and 30-35 MLD for Madhavaram. The remaining quantity would be conveyed to Red Hills from where it would be distributed to the city. This gives the scope for increasing the quantity of water supplied to the city. On an average, 660 MLD is supplied to the city.

To a question whether there is any planned shutdown for the plant, the official says that as per the agreement, the plant is supposed to run all through year, supplying 100 MLD.

Performance tests for 100 hours were carried out and they concluded on June 29.

On the financial implications of the project, the official says that the State government, in the budget for the current year, set apart Rs. 100 crore for the water purchase. In a full year, it would cost about Rs. 170 crore.