A Detailed Project Report is being worked out for a 200 million litres a day (mld) desalination plant to cater to the needs of the “expanded Chennai” , Ashok Vardhan Shetty, Principal Secretary, Municipal Administration and Water Supply, said here on Wednesday.

Speaking at the international conference on “water partnerships towards meeting the climate change”, he pointed out that Tamil Nadu had been the pioneer in establishing desalination plants for tackling drinking water needs of the population. The expanded Chennai would have 430 square kilometre area and would require 400 mld water a day. Already a 100 mld plant was functional at Minjur and another unit of the same size was coming up at Nemmeri. It was likely to be completed in about a year. The new one was planned in Tiruvallur district.

Mr.Shetty expressed anguish over the water supply project being implemented under the New Tirupur Area Development Company Ltd, a public-private partnership venture.

He pointed out that the scheme was conceived because the groundwater resources had got totally depleted in Tirupur region and also due to rampant pollution. When the project was planned, the demand of the industries there was projected as 150 mld. “Now, while a number of units have been closed down because of pollution violations, many other industries have also backed out thus bringing down the demand to hardly 40-50 mld.” Such a situation had given rise to a question “whether privatisation as a plan would succeed?”

Mr.Shetty, who suggested higher pricing of water for hotels and marriage halls, as they could afford it, however said it was his “personal opinion” and “not that of the government”.

Vibhu Nayar, founder mentor of the Centre for Excellence for Change, welcoming the gathering, lamented that public sector had been ridiculed and pilloried for various ills in water management. “There has been an attempt to dump the baby with bathwater” and to introduce privatisation. But even now 90 per cent of the water service was with the public sector. It would definitely be possible to create a platform for collective handling of the problems using the expertise obtained from various governmental sources and finding common solutions.