With the city in the midst of a severe water crisis, hundreds of residents, especially those on the IT corridor, have been left at the mercy of water tankers.
Despite the strike by private water tanker operators being called off on Thursday, dwindling supply has alarmed and frustrated residents.
Earlier this week, when the strike began, sumps and overhead tanks in many houses along the arterial IT corridor stretch went dry for almost two days. Residents say getting a lorry-load of water is an arduous task, as even if they were willing to pay up to Rs. 3,000 per load, it takes at least four days for the tanker to arrive. Most residents on Rajiv Gandhi Salai are dependent on private tankers for their daily needs. Only a few pockets along the corridor such as Perungudi and Sholinganallur are covered by public water supply. The groundwater in many of these fast-developing suburbs is simply not enough to meet the needs of IT companies dotting the stretch.
Chennai Metrowater supplies nearly 18 million litres a day (mld) through pipelines and about one mld through its tankers to the IT corridor. However, since there is a huge gap between supply and demand, private tankers cash in. The number of lorries transporting water to the IT hub has increased to over 300 in the past few years.
Even daily chores like washing clothes are affected without water supply, said Thilaga, a resident of Thoraipakkam. “I wait till I get water in the evening to wash clothes. The water scarcity is affecting our daily routine badly,” she said.
An IT employee said her colleague residing on the IT corridor did not turn up for work on Wednesday after water supply took a hit following the strike.
Raghav Srinivas’s apartment complex in Pallikaranai has struggled without water since Wednesday evening. “We rely on private water tanks and pay Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1,500 for 12,000 litres of water. After the strike, some of them doubled the charges. It was only on Thursday afternoon that we managed to get a lorry-load for Rs. 1,000,” he said.
With regular sources drying up, tankers are now travelling to villages in other districts in search of water. Lorries queuing up in villages such as Ponmar, Cholavaram, Karanodai and Thirumazhisai in the night for their turn to draw water from borewells has become a common sight over the past few months.
P.S. Sundaram, president of the South Chennai Private Water Tanker Operators Association, said, “We pay Rs.200-Rs.400 to borewell owners to extract water for a 12-kilolitre lorry load. Borewells that are willing to provide water are limited to 250, and groundwater levels have dipped. We spend long hours waiting and extracting water,” he said.
(Some names have been changed.)