For over a week now, E. Ramesh has had to walk 2 km from his flat in Kannagi Nagar, in search of water.
But even getting one pot filled, often requires arguing with other residents of the locality, all of them desperate for water.
While summer and the water shortage associated with it are still a month away, for residents of the Kannagi Nagar slum board tenements in Thoraipakkam, the crisis has already begun.
“We depend on water supplied by Chennai Metrowater through street taps for all our needs, from cooking to bathing. There is no other source of water — no well or borewell. For one week now, our area has not received water. I have to walk until Pettai or go to the PTC quarters to fill a few pots. Residents there too, need water. So I have to argue or plead with them to let me fill a few pots,” said Ramesh.
Ramesh is one of many who have been shifted from localities across the city such as Thiruvanmiyur, Adyar, Neelankarai, Chepauk and Langs Garden Road, to make way for development work along the city’s waterways.
S. Kausalya, another resident of Kannagi Nagar, said water is supplied from a sump on alternate days.
“I used to carry 20 pots for all my household needs to my flat on the second floor. That was difficult enough but now, with having to walk long distances in search of water, it has become worse,” she said.
There are over 15,000 families residing in the tenements and each street tap serves residents of 8-10 flats in the area.
Residents like Mohana and Kokila have not been able to go to work as they spend most day in search of water. They complained that even the water they managed to find, was of poor quality. Sometimes, they said, they got water mixed with sewage and they were afraid to use it for fear of contracting an infectious disease.
Chennai Metrowater supplies 23 lakh litres of water daily to the tenements. Officials of Metrowater said that there had been a decrease in supply over the past few days owing to interconnection work of a distribution pipeline from the upcoming Nemmeli desalination plant. A leak in the pipeline had also disrupted water supply there, but it had resumed from Friday, they said.
Officials of the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board, which maintains the distribution infrastructure, said a team checks the water quality periodically.
Illegal tapping of lines from street taps often resulted in sewage mixing with water, they said. “We did not dig borewells as the groundwater quality there is very poor. We have asked Metrowater to step up supply to 38 lakh litres so that there is adequate supply to the tenements,” an official said.