All’s not well with Triplicane streets

As old borewells go dry, residents sink new ones on the road. Experts warn that indiscriminate sinking of borewells can lead to seawater intrusion

October 06, 2017 03:54 pm | Updated 03:54 pm IST

A borewell being sunk at Nallathambi Street.  Photo : S. R. Raghunathan

A borewell being sunk at Nallathambi Street. Photo : S. R. Raghunathan

N. Balaji oversees a plumbing work at his small apartment complex on Nallathambi Street in Triplicane. A pipe is being fixed, ensuring a connection between a newly-sunk borewell and a rooftop water tank. The borewell, dug up to a depth of 200 feet, will serve 11 families at this small apartment complex. Balaji and the other residents can pat themselves on their backs for not choosing an easy option. Apparently, on Nallathambi Street, for want of space, many residents have sunk borewells on the road. Though strapped for space themselves, Balaji and team managed to have their borewell in the driveway of their 13-year-old complex.

However, the fact that borewells are coming up on Nallathambi Street at the rate of knots remains a matter of concern. As existing borewells are going dry, residents are forced to sink new ones, sometimes on unlikely places such as the road.

Balaji says when this apartment complex was first occupied, residents relied on an 80-feet-deep borewell. As supply from this borewell was irregular, they had to dig another one.

Over the last two to three months, Nallathambi Street, which is around 200 metres long, 15 borewells have been sunk and a majority of them are on the road.

Balaji points to the house (opposite his complex) which is served by a new borewell sunk on the road. According to a few residents, they had to resort to this desperate measure as bore-drilling machines would not enter the space-starved houses and tightly-constructed flats.

“In the event of any civic work involving road digging, the structure could get damaged and these residents would incur additional expenses while having it repaired,” says Balaji.

M.A. Kalisraj, who runs a savouries shop on the street, says this practice is rampant on many streets of Triplicane, including Venkatachalam Naicken Street and Nallathambi Street .

“Except for the streets around the Parthasarathy Swamy temple, many interior streets are experiencing a depletion of groundwater. So, many resort to drilling new borewells,” he says.

The borewells have to be sunk really deep. While Kalisraj stopped at 116 feet, his neighbour, who runs a mansion, had to have a borewell sunk up to 300 feet.

Residents claim they have got the permission for sinking borewells on the road.

“We made a demand draft of ₹2000 to the Revenue Officer of Greater Chennai Corporation to get the sanction,” says Kalisraj.

Ground realities

Experts question how could permission be granted for digging borewells on the road. Indiscriminate drilling of borewells would lead to sea water intrusion.

“It could also lead to ground water contamination,” says L. Elango, professor and head, Department of Geology, Anna University. He cites the example of Besant Nagar.

“People in Besant Nagar once enjoyed good groundwater, but after residents starting digging borewells indiscriminately, sea water intrusion was felt even up to Kalakshetra Colony,” he says.

A Corporation official of Ward 116 said they had let residents sink borewells immediately outside their houses when that was the only way they could get groundwater.

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