Five years before she gave up hope, Adline C.P. had decided to end her working class neighbourhood’s long silence and call up the Chief Minister of Kerala.
“I was watching the programme Sutharya Keralam on TV. They said you can call in with your complaint. It had been months since our neighbourhood had got drinking water. We were buying water, those who could not afford, borrowed from their neighbours. I had about enough. I called,” Ms. Adline, in her seventies, said.
Water had been perennially scarce in Pallimalakunnu, located in Kottooli village, here. Authorities either blame it on the “relatively higher altitude” of the area or even do not bother to offer an “excuse”.
This has been the case despite the presence of water bodies like the Kalipoika and Canoly Canal merely 300 metres away.
Ms. Adline’s call resulted in a reply from the Managing Director, Kerala Water Authority, addressed to the Additional Secretary, Sutharaya Keralam.
The letter painted a sorry picture of the water supply mechanism in the city.
“Pallimalakunnu area is at relatively higher altitude. Since gravity flow from the existing reservoir is found not feasible, the consumers at higher levels like Adline are being supplied water from the Poolakkadavu plant. Ms. Adline is at the tail end,” the KWA chief explained in his letter.
It detailed how the authority tries to supply water every alternate day, but was crippled by “unexpected problems” such as power failure or mechanical failure.
It had assured that Pallimalakunnu’s “problem would be solved permanently on commissioning the ongoing Japan International Cooperation Agency-aided” drinking water project.
Five years later, the JICA-aided project is nowhere near completion.
Meanwhile, the situation at Pallimalakunnu has taken a turn for the worse. It has been over two months since the drinking water supply to the working class neighbourhood has stopped. There is no word from the authorities.
Infrequent visits by water tankers create a mad scramble in the neighbourhood. Women and children take whatever vessels they get in hand and rush for the tanker. Neighbours, who have been with one another through thick and thin, push and shove for a bucket of drinking water.
“One of the largest labour population in the city lives here. They don’t have the power to react and bear deprivation silently. They cannot fight and earn their bread at the same time,” Jose T. Thomas, a retired Health official and a resident of Pallimalakunnu said.
Residents have witnessed several half-baked attempts from the authorities to tide over the water scarcity – and everything remains on paper.
For example, a March 15, 2013 letter from the Kerala Water Authority to the Executive Engineer, Public Works Department, seeks permission to dig to fix a water pipeline of “bigger diameter”.
Though the PWD had allowed KWA to go ahead “considering the urgent nature of work”, nothing has been done so far.
“A dedicated rider line was established from Mavoor Road to Pallimalakunnu in 1994 to supply water here. However, water supply through the 1,200-metre long line stopped when four apartment complexes came up on its route. We had asked the authorities to remove any unauthorised water connections from the rider line. But nothing turned out,” P.K. Sreenivasan, secretary, Pallimalakunnu Residents Association, said.
Similarly, the District Collector had recently directed the Executive Engineer, KWA, to dig a borewell in the area. No action has been taken so far.
A suggestion by residents to build an open pond on five cents of land near Kalipoika so that water can be distributed through the lift irrigation method to Pallimalakunnu has also received no response as yet. This is in spite of the fact that the Corporation had endorsed digging of small wells wherever there is space as part of its 12th Five Year Plan.
“We stopped calling. There is no point,” Ms. Adline said.