For over 10 years now, Ambattur residents have been waiting for sewerage connections, as the underground drainage project in their locality is yet to be completed.

Residents say they continue to grapple with sanitation woes, owing to a lack of infrastructure, and the undue delays in completing Rs. 221 crore project.

Started a decade ago when Ambattur was still a municipality, the Chennai Metrowater project is still unfinished in many areas. Residents also complained that they have been left in the dark about the deadline for the provision of house service connections. In other areas such as Hasthinapuram, residents have been provided with house service connections within four years of the commencement of a project.

For people in areas such as Korattur, enduring backbreaking rides have become the norm, as several roads have been either dug up or left unpaved, citing the ongoing work.

Merlin Satish, a resident of Korattur said the roads had not been blacktopped for over a year now, owing to the drainage project. Travelling on the bumpy roads has aggravated back problems of many residents, she said. “I often have to argue with autorickshaw drivers as they mostly refuse to ply on interior streets or charge about Rs. 150 to ply a distance of five km,” she added.

Residents said though several deadlines have been set in the past, they have not been adhered to. T. Gunaseelan, a resident of Varadarajapuram, said elected representatives had assured them that the work would be completed soon.

The project has faced hiccups owing to problems with the erstwhile Ambattur municipality and contractors there. It was then handed over to Metrowater four years ago.

K. Ganapathy, general secretary of Krishnapuram Residents’ Welfare Association, said, “Several residents paid Rs.7,500 as a deposit to the erstwhile municipality for the project a decade ago. But, only 60 per cent of the project seems to have been completed. In a reply to an RTI petition, the water agency had assured us that the scheme would be completed by June 2011. But there is no progress to be seen.”

As there is no sewerage network, several people release sewage into open storm water drains, which poses a health hazard. “We don’t have a choice other than to pay exorbitant rates of Rs. 1,000-Rs. 1,200 charged by sewage lorries to clean septic tanks,” Mr. Ganapathy added.

Manpower shortage, delays in permission for cutting roads and problems faced during land acquisition for constructing sewage pumping stations are cited to be some reasons for the delay in the project. Also, the construction of deep manholes can only begin in summer, when there is a dip in the groundwater table, a Metrowater official said.

However, residents may have some respite soon as the other major project to provide a drinking water supply network worth Rs. 268 crore is likely to be completed in a few months. The work includes a pipeline covering a distance of 489 km and the provision of nearly 75,000 water connections to areas such as Oragadam and Padi.

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