Sewage lorry operators on the East Coast Road-Rajiv Gandhi Salai belt went on an indefinite strike from Tuesday. Lorries stayed off the roads protesting against the hike in charges to dispose of sewage at the Perungudi treatment plant.
Several lorries were parked along the Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam Radial Road as a mark of protest. T.S.Arun Kumar, president, South Chennai Sewage Lorries Owners Welfare Association, said nearly 350 lorries were involved in clearing the septic tanks of buildings in the southern parts of the city, which were yet to get a drainage network. On an average, each lorry makes 3-4 trips daily.
Chennai Metrowater has recently hiked charges from ₹100 to ₹250 to dispose sewage at its Perungudi sewage treatment plant. “We are already burdened by the hike in insurance premium and toll charges. This would further add to our woes. We charge a minimum of ₹450 to clear sewage depending on the distance,” he said.
Members of the association demanded that the hike be withdrawn. It would affect several apartment complexes, IT firms and commercial establishments that depend on the service. More disposal points must be provided at the treatment facility. They were also against the restrictions on operation timings, they claimed. Responding to the demands, sources in Metrowater said sewage collected from the peripheral areas, which were not served by the water agency, were earlier allowed to be disposed in pumping stations. The charges were revised after nearly 15 years. It was done based on the government order of Commissionerate of Municipal Administration that fixed the charges at ₹200 in 2014.
On an average, about 480 trips are operated to various treatment facilities daily. Of this, about 280 trips are made to Perungudi STP. Nearly 60% of the consumer base in the ECR-OMR belt is commercial establishments. The water agency plans to hold talks to resolve the issue, sources said.
Though Metrowater offered ‘Dial for septic tank clearance,’ it has not found many takers due to lack of awareness and limited number of lorries.