Sewage lorry owners in south Chennai, covering areas in and around Rajiv Gandhi Salai, East Coast Road, Pallikaranai and Medavakkam, went on a flash strike on Thursday demanding relaxation of operating timings.
“Every day around 300 trips are made to the sewage treatment plant at Perungudi. Police are now trying to restrict their operations between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m,” said T.S. Arunkumar, association president. “It will only affect the residents, IT companies, hotels and other commercial establishments that depend on our services,” he added.
Residents got worried when they heard about the strike as hundreds of multi-storeyed apartments entirely depend on these tankers for clearing the sewage.
Sudhakar of Raju Nagar said he engaged such lorries twice a month. “A sewer line remains a distant dream. If the trucks don’t work, it may lead to groundwater contamination. After our area became part of the Greater Chennai Corporation, roads have become higher and our homes have gone down. I wonder how sewer lines will be laid in such a landscape,” he said.
N. Sundaram, president, Federation of Residents’ Welfare Association of Pallikaranai, said the delay in completion of the underground sewer network in their area had already caused serious damage, with residents letting out sewage into choke pits. Now, the strike by sewage lorry operators could pose another problem. Areas adjacent to Rajiv Gandhi Salai have several hotels and IT companies that are dependent on sewage lorries. “We remove around 80 loads a month, which means we spend close to a lakh of rupees on it,” said a hotel industry official.
Meanwhile, a senior official of the Chennai traffic police said that by going on strike, the sewer lorry operators were trying to arm-twist the police into relaxing the traffic rules, which were being stringently implemented.
The traffic rules of prohibiting heavy vehicles during peak hours from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. have been in existence for years but have not been followed by these trucks. “This rule is now being enforced strictly,” the officer said. However, the tanker operators resumed services in the evening.