K. Lakshmi

CHENNAI: Chennai Metrowater’s drive to collect arrears from those defaulting on the payment of water and sewerage taxes by disconnecting the service to the entire apartment complex has earned the displeasure of prompt tax payers who do not want to suffer on account of someone else’s fault.

Metrowater says that it is resorting to disconnection as a final measure towards collection of around Rs. 90 crore arrears from both domestic and commercial consumers.

Residents of an apartment complex in T.Nagar said they faced the risk of disconnection of service lines owing to non-payment of tax by commercial establishments located in the same complex. One of the residents said: “We have been paying our tax and charges regularly since we bought our flats a decade ago. Now, Metrowater personnel have told us that our water and sewer lines may be snapped if the shop owners do not clear their arrears.”

Living in complexes where commercial establishments are also located could lead to problems for the residents.

A case in point is that of the residents of an apartment complex in Kodambakkam, who have been advised to pay partly commercial rates by Metrowater.

A member of the flat owners’ association said the builder had sold the space to the commercial enterprises in their complex even before the residents bought their property. Moreover, the shop-owners are reluctant to share the burden especially in paying the charges as they did not have water and sewerage facility.

Bharat Jairaj of Citizens Civic and Consumer Action Group said the non-governmental organisation was aware of several such cases.

Metrowater may provide separate house connections, as done by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, to the apartments to put an end to the problem.

Metrowater’s Response

Quoting from the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Act, 1978, a Metrowater official said the Act authorised the Board to determine the manner of levying and collecting tax and charges. It also allowed for disconnection of the lines of defaulters and the courts endorsed the procedure through repeated judgements.

However, the disconnection of lines was not done immediately. The defaulters are reminded to pay the arrears and also issued legal notices after a few months. Cutting off the supply was resorted to as a final step.

Provision of separate connections was not technically viable and those residing in the complex, whether domestic or partly commercial, were collectively responsible for payment of dues as the structure is provided with a common connection.