At a time when the city is reeling under a water shortage, the strike by private water tankers in south Chennai has aggravated the woes of residents.
For the second day, on Wednesday, private lorry operators stayed off roads protesting the restrictions on groundwater use in Ottiambakkam, Kovilambakkam and Nanmangalam. They also demanded regularisation of norms for groundwater extraction.
Nearly 250 private tankers suspended their daily trips and were parked along Thoraipakkam-Pallavaram Radial Road. The private tankers bridge the gap in water supply and cater to areas such as Velachery, Sholinganallur and Medavakkam. The strike has left many residents and commercial establishments on IT corridor high and dry.
Vijaya Sekar, a resident of Prabhu Nagar, Thoraipakkam, said: “The groundwater in my house is saline. I buy tanker water twice a month. Lorry operators are delaying supply by a week as the demand has gone up. I pay Rs. 1,500-Rs. 1,700 for a 12-kl lorry load.”
N. Nijalingam, president of South Chennai Private Water Tankers Operators Association, said they travelled up to Ponmar, 25 km away from Velachery, to draw groundwater. “Until four months ago, we were drawing water from borewells in Pallikaranai and Narayanapuram. The groundwater level has dipped in these areas. We operate only six lorry loads due to dearth of water,” he said.
Members of the Association said their lorries were seized on grounds of indiscriminate tapping of groundwater. “We spend long hours in serpentine queues to fetch water and there is so much competition in sourcing water from borewells. This sudden restriction will further affect our business,” said R. Bhaskaran, a lorry operator.
P.S. Sundaram, president of Chennai Private Water Tankers Operators Association, said lorry operators were forced to charge up to Rs. 2,700 for a 20-kl lorry load to meet their escalating operation costs. The government must give licences to tanker owners to check the sudden spurt in water lorries.
Meanwhile, officials of the revenue department said they were holding talks with lorry operators to resume supply.
Sholinganallur tahsildar D. Ravichandran said they seized the lorries following protests from Ottiambakkam residents. “If the tanker owners give a representation, we will take necessary steps to provide licences for groundwater extraction,” he said.