CHENNAI: Ever since the water crisis started to grip the city, the suburbs and peripheral areas have been targeted by private water tankers to tap groundwater. Especially, localities like Manimangalam, Somangalam, Kundrathur and Chengalpet in Kancheepuram district have borne the brunt of severely depleting groundwater levels because of this. According to data from the State Ground and Surface Water Resources Centre, in a month’s time from April to May, groundwater levels in Kancheepuram district have gone down by 0.05 metres or five centimetres.
In some cases, groundwater
levels have plummeted from 50 ft to even 400 ft in a year. One such locality is Kundrathur where eight to nine borewells are operated illegally by private tankers, allege locals. “Water taken from here is supplied mainly to industries and IT parks in and around Pallavaram, Pammal and Tambaram. Because of this, there is no water for residents to draw even from their own wells. There is one such borewell right behind my house. Close to 30 lorries draw water from this spot alone. Now even at 300 ft, the water pressure is very poor at my house,” said Suresh R, a resident.
A year ago, an illegal borewell unit along Kundrathur- Thiruneermalai road was closed by revenue officials from Kancheepuram. But this has been re-opened without permission and is used by private tankers, said residents. “Along this stretch, close to 8 borewell units are functioning illegally. No one gets proper permission from authorities to dig a borewell in the first place. All officials concerned are well aware of such activities but turn a blind eye to it,” said Pughalvendhan V, a resident, whose borewell’s groundwater levels dropped from 20 ft to 400 ft in a year.
On the other hand, private water tanker association members denied about steeply declining water levels in these areas and said that water is available less than 100 ft here. “In and around Manimangalam and Somangalam, only 60-70 tankers draw water to cater to OMR. We get a good yield even at 70 ft as we draw water mostly from open wells. In Kundrathur, we have one or two borewells only. As a principle, we avoid tapping water from areas which have very less groundwater,” said S Murugan, secretary of Tamil Nadu Private Water Tanker Owners’ Association.
Officials from the revenue department said that recently eight water can companies in Thandalam were closed down for extracting water without getting due permission. Out of this, two companies had expired permits. A year ago a private tanker was caught for drawing water from Thiruneermalai quarry without a permit.
“We are able to temporarily seize such tankers. As these businesses run with political support, we are not able to take further action. Private tankers need to renew their permit from PWD every year which most don’t do. Also, they can only draw a specific amount of water in a day. But they exceed this limit and no one keeps a check on this,” said a revenue official.