Tamil Nadu

Where finding water is a daily struggle

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With borewells running dry and tankers in short supply, the crisis is expected to have poll ramifications

Each day has become a nightmare for residents like Vijayalakshmi of Chinnathammalseruvu, a small village on the outskirts of Gudiyatham constituency. She along with her neighbours wait for a private tanker to supply water; each pot costing ₹4.

In fact, many parts of the constituency, including semi-urban areas, are reeling under acute water scarcity. The groundwater has depleted or turned salty due to pollution by tanneries.

The Combined Water Supply Scheme with Cauvery river as source covers only a few parts of the constituency but even that has become irregular, residents say.

The constituency goes to the bypolls on April 18 and the water crisis could be one of the key deciding factors.

“The bitter reality is that we do not have water even for our basic needs at home. We are depending on private tankers,” said Vivekanandan, a resident of Pernambut.

The wells in Madanapalli river that used to supply water for various areas have dried up. “As of now, the Cauvery water scheme is the only source. But, the supply is only 50% of what was earmarked for Pernambut and surrounding villages” said T. Basheeruddin, president of Consumers’ Welfare Protection Society of Pernambut.

“We are facing severe water crisis, and we are getting water only once in 15 to 20 days. This minimal supply lasts only for two days. Areas including Tharaikaadu, Kamaraj Nagar, Thiru vi ka Nagar and Othavadai are worst-hit,” he laments.

“Gudiyatham town gets its supply from the mainline. Interior areas suffer the most. No one has concentrated on water schemes but have only brushed aside our representations,” he rues.

There is no water for agriculture as well. At least 65% of borewells have failed.

The delay in constructing a dam across Malataaru in Bathalapalli has caused enough damage to farming, says K. Loganathan, district president, Thamizhaga Vivaisaigal Sangam - Vellore West.

“Construction of a dam at Bathalapalli is the only way to solve water crisis in this part of the district,” says D. Krishnan, a farmer. “The project was abandoned several years ago, and only an earthen bund remains now. We are facing drought. If this dam is constructed, groundwater in areas including Bathalapalli, Masigam, Madanapalli, Erukampattu and Pernambut will recharge, benefiting several acres of cultivable land,” he notes.

Weavers in trouble

Gudiyatham constituency has a sizeable number of families involved in weaving lungies for livelihood. But their wages remain the same for four years. “Several years ago, there were at least 15,000 families involved in handloom weaving here. Today, there are only 3,000 families. A weaver gets ₹150 a day. The GST has indirectly impacted the livelihood of weavers as the owners are refusing to hike the wages citing the burden cast by the GST on the trade,” says N. Jothi Basu, secretary, Handloom Weavers Association (CITU), Vellore.

Congestion remains another unaddressed issue. The town is congested as the arterial road continues to be narrow for the past 50 years. But the vehicle population has grown manifold, residents say.

“The Gudiyatham municipality has increased the taxes including water charges. We pay taxes but there are no basic amenities,” Rathnam, a resident complains.

In the 2016 Assembly elections, AIADMK’s C. Jayanthi Padmanabhan defeated DMK’s K. Rajamarthandan by 11,470 votes. But she was disqualified along with 17 other MLAs of the T.T.V. Dhinakaran camp.

Many residents are unhappy for having been left without a MLA for a long time now. For candidates fielded for the bypoll, addressing the water needs of residents top the list of assurances.

S. Kathavarayan of DMK and Ms. Padmanabhan, who will once again face elections on an AMMK ticket this time, have assured construction of the dam at Bathalapalli.

Mr. Kathavarayan has assured extension of the Cauvery water scheme to more areas and also create a ring road as the town is heavily congested.

Ms. Padmanabhan has assured to create a new road alignment for Kailasagiri Hills, a new bridge at Nariyampattu, SIPCOT for providing employment and a women’s college at Pernambut.

AIADMK’s R. Moorthi said he will take steps to establish a weaver’s park, expand the government hospital at Gudiyatham and construct a new bridge across Koundinya river. Makkal Needhi Maiam’s candidate S. Venkatesan has assured to sink borewells in villages and construct check dams.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 12:41:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/where-finding-water-is-a-daily-struggle/article26706537.ece

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