CHENNAI: The drought-like situation is not only taking a toll on people’s health but also on the education of some girls.
Dharshini J (9) and her friend Priya S (11) go to school only on alternate days so that they can fetch water. They have to walk around 1 km between their homes at Vyasarpadi Kannikapuram area and the Metro Water dispensing unit.
They make about three trips a day to ensure enough water is stored.
“Since our fathers go to work in the morning, an extra hand is required to fetch water. I go to school on alternate days so as to help my mother carry water,” says Priya, a Class VII student at government girls high school. She says she goes to nearby places to find pumps that provide potable water.
Vyasarpadi, just like most areas in the city, is facing an acute water crisis.
“In our locality, the water was dark black for two months. It has now turned brown,’’ says Dharshini, as she operates the hand pump.
“Metro Water outlets supply water erratically. About 500 residents turn up at a time and one family gets only two or three pots within the one-hour time limit,’’ says 35-year-old Amudha N.
It is mostly women who go to fetch water with their children assisting them.
"Tricycle operators and autos charge Rs 100 for shuttle service. We can’t afford that. So we walk,’’ says Amudha.
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Parimala P (38) of Venkatesapuram says that fight for water is a common thing at supply points as everyone converges upon it at the same time.
The repercussions due to water crisis are manifold. Since supply is erratic, women and children stay at home not knowing when the next drop of water will arrive.
“None of the women go for work daily. We lose at least Rs 200 daily and this has only resulted in us delaying repayment of debts,’’ says 30-year-old Ramani R, a maid, who also closed her tiffin stall due to the crisis.
“It is difficult to supplement can water with Metro Water for cooking and drinking. I used to provide Metro Water for customers, but now I cannot provide the ‘sewage mixed water,’” she says, adding that she loses at least Rs 1,000 a day.
Adding to their woes, some women at Kannikapuram believe they contracted jaundice because of contaminated water from the hand pump.
“The water was light yellow a month ago. In May, 10 women contacted jaundice at the same time and doctors told us that water may be the cause,’’ says Ramani, adding that she spent more than Rs 1,000 for treatment.
As the need for water has increased, about a thousand residents belonging to Venkatespuram and Kannikapuram started using water from public toilets.
“We do not cook and drink, but take bath and wash clothes with that,’’ E L Mathew (42) of Kannikapuram said.
“Despite repeated complaints about contaminated water in hand pumps, Metro Water has not inspected it yet,’’ he says. A Metro Water official said he was not aware of it.
“We have been supplying water mainly through tankers and dispensing units. We will examine the hand pumps soon,’’ he concluded.