Desalination plant will supply water to nearly 15 lakh residents in southern parts of Chennai and expanded areas

The year-long wait is over. South Chennai need not rely on the rain-fed reservoirs alone for its water needs.

The much-awaited second desalination plant along East Coast Road, at Nemmeli, 36 km south of Chennai, was inaugurated by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Friday.

In a couple of days, nearly 15 lakh people of southern Chennai and the expanded areas — especially Velachery, Thiruvanmiyur, Pallipattu and areas adjoining the IT Corridor such as Karapakkam — will be supplied desalinated water from the plant that has a capacity to treat 100 million litres of sea water per day (mld). Metrowater is flushing the newly-laid pipelines and the plant will function to its full capacity by March. The plant, which was to be inaugurated last year, was delayed due to the extra time needed for sinking pipelines to draw raw water and release brine.

The new source of water has been commissioned at an opportune moment as a water crisis looms large with the four major reservoirs that cater to the city’s drinking water needs drying up fast for want of rain. The Water Resources Department recently suspended providing water to the city from the Veeranam tank in Cuddalore district as its water level had dipped to nearly 30 million cubic feet.

The desalinated water from Nemmeli plant will offset the shortage due to loss of water from Veeranam tank.

While the first desalination plant in the State that was commissioned in Kattupalli, Minjur in July 2010 is being operated by Chennai Water Desalination Limited on DBOOT (design, build, own, operate, transfer) mode, the new facility at Nemmeli will be owned by Chennai Metrowater. VA Tech Wabag was entrusted with the construction of the plant.

With the project estimated to cost Rs. 908 crore, a grant of nearly Rs.871.24 crore was sought from the Central government. This helped bring down the production cost of desalinated water. Metrowater purchases water from the Minjur facility at Rs. 48.66 a kilolitre that includes capital cost. In Nemmeli, the production cost, including the capital and operation costs, will come to about Rs. 35 per kilo litre. The use of modern technology also helped.

Nearly 265 million litres of sea water is drawn through a pipeline that runs up to one km into the sea. The waste water is disposed through a 740-metre-long pipe at a depth of 8 m below sea level.

At the inaugural function, Municipal Administration and Water Supply secretary K. Phanindra Reddy said that a plot of 40.5 acres was allotted for the plant. Of this, only 20 acres were required as fewer treatment units were built as the Nemmeli plant uses a compact and faster treatment process when compared to the conventional filtration system in Minjur.

Equipment for various kinds of filtration was imported from different countries. The treated water would be distributed through 64 km-long pipeline laid by L & T Limited and stored at underground sumps enroute.

Minister for municipal administration and rural development K.P. Munusami and Chennai Metrowater managing director B.Chandramohan were among those who participated in the meeting.