CHENNAI: Higher transportation costs and depleting groundwater have prompted private water tanker operators in Chennai to up their prices by at least Rs 500 per tanker load (10 kilo litres), which works out to a 25 per cent hike. Residents of apartments in the city have been particularly hit by the hike and in some apartments austerity measures have been mooted to tide over the situation.
“Water shortage in our apartment is so severe that the residents’ welfare association has advised us to store a few buckets of water for emergency usage. Water is being continuously drawn for at least 18 hours a day and it has gone near dry. Since tanker operators have hiked their rates in the past week, we have been advised to avoid washing cars and using water to clean the car park area,” said a resident of VGN Platina Apartments in Ayapakkam. Many apartment dwellers in the city foresee a hike in monthly maintenance charges in the coming days if the water crisis continues.
Water tanker operators usually source the water from suburban Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts where groundwater level is depleting fast. Figures available with the State Ground and Surface Water Resources Data Centre show that the groundwater levels have dipped by 0.57 metres in the past year. While the groundwater level during the corresponding period last year was 5.06 metres, now it has dipped to 5.63 metres.
In Tiruvallur, the depletion in groundwater level is even more drastic. “Last year, the water level was 5.08 metres, while this year in June it is 7.11 metres. This is a huge fall of 2.03 metres,” pointed out an official. In Kancheepuram, the water level has dipped to 6.55 metres from 5.8 metres in June last year.
“Poor rainfall and limited water supply have made people to be over-dependent on groundwater. Naturally, the groundwater level will go down,” said Rain Centre Director Sekhar Raghavan. Water tanker operators say that while a load of water was sold between Rs 1,200 and Rs 1,500 until a fortnight ago, now the price is up by Rs 500. “We were previously drawing water from irrigation wells and bore wells in and around Poonamallee, Seneerkuppam, Karamadai and Red Hills. Now with restrictions being imposed on drawing water there, we are forced to go as far as Thirumazhisai. This has led to an increase in transportation cost, which we pass on to consumers,” explained P S Sundaram, president, Chennai Private Water Tankers Operators Association.
The longer distance has also meant that tanker operators take fewer trips. “In the past when we drew water from farm fields in Poonamallee, we had to cover only a distance of around 20 kms from Anna Salai to the source point. Now the distance to Thirumazhisai from Anna Salai works out to around 30 kms. In effect, we undertake fewer trips, while we still need to pay the driver and cleaner the same wages,” Sundaram pointed out.