G. Mahadevan

  • Surveillance unit has no proper equipment
  • Leak-noise co-relator fails to be of any use

    THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The inability of the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) to proactively detect leaks on large pipelines bringing water from Aruvikkara to the city continues to be the agency's major handicap in ensuring uninterrupted supply of drinking water.

    This inability is despite the fact that during the tenure of the previous United Democratic Front Government, a Special Surveillance Unit based at Peroorkada was set up to monitor the lines from Aruvikkara to Peroorkada. The unit now operates with an Assistant Engineer, an overseer and six `line watchers and contract workers, who are expected to visually inspect the 9-km route of the pipelines. The officials, though, have no equipment to help them detect a leak on the pipelines buried deep beneath the soil. Only when a leak becomes severe enough for its effect to be visible above the ground are the watchers alerted to a problem in the pipeline.

    In the wake of the report of the S. Daivamani Commission that probed the bursts in water pipelines at Kummi in 1997, the KWA put in place a Crisis Management Group charged with coordinating repairs on the pipelines. The KWA had announced then that a leak-noise co-relator, a machine capable of sensing leaks on pipelines, would be bought. Now, even though the machine has been bought for work related to the Japan Bank for International Cooperation scheme, the KWA is unable to use it in Thiruvananthapuram as it does not have trained personnel to operate the machine.

    A senior official of the KWA told The Hindu that such machines could detect leaks as soon as they were formed. "Then we will know which pipe is leaking and where. We can immediately notify a disruption in water supply and set right the problem. But only a highly trained person can use the instrument effectively," the official said.

    An engineer of the KWA, who was associated with the trial operations of the leak detection unit, said the unit was unable even to pinpoint the fault on a pipeline that was visibly leaking. "That particular machine was a failure. Even the engineer who came from Japan was unable to effectively locate a leak. But there may be other such equipment and the KWA was yet to explore alternatives. It should be done immediately," the engineer said.