CHENNAI: At a time when water levels in main reservoirs of the city have only one per cent of their total capacity, borewells don’t have water even at 500 ft and residents are buying water at exorbitant rates, operators of private water tankers have decided to go on strike from May 27.
Close to 4,500 tankers plying across Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur will stop supplying water. The main reason cited by the tankers is the opposition to them in certain villages on the outskirts of Chennai, from where they extract groundwater and sell it to residents of Chennai.
While the villagers had always been opposing the extraction of their groundwater to supply to Chennai, the private tankers said they had decided to launch the sudden strike because the government officials took side with villagers and cracked down on the private tankers.
Private water tanker lorry association members said that three days ago in Red Hills four tankers were taken into custody by local police officials. In many places along Thiruporur-Chennai route, teams of revenue inspectors and tahsildars have been stopping tankers from tapping groundwater. In other localities such as Keerapakkam in Kancheepuram district, villagers have prevented tankers from extracting water.
“Villagers have broken pumps and other equipment. Panchayat officials have even gone to the extent of dumping sugar into the motor to cease it. Officials are treating us like criminals when we are only providing water to those who are in dire need. We will prolong the strike this time until Metro Water board and Collectors of three districts promise not disturb our work,” said Nijalingam N, president, South Chennai Private Water Tanker Association.
The city which is already reeling from one of its worst droughts will be left in the lurch as private tankers supply close to 700 MLD. Gated communities, apartment complexes, IT parks, hotels, hostels and hospitals will be affected the worst. As Metro Water supply has been reduced from 800 MLD to 550 MLD in the past two months and getting a Metro Water tanker takes close to two weeks, many residents opt for private players.
Close to 13 lakh residents along OMR are completely dependent on private water tankers as groundwater along this stretch is unfit to drink, said residents.
“Though exploiting our groundwater resources is a dangerous option, we sadly have no other choice. We need at least 70 litres of water per day per person. The government must quickly come to an agreement with tanker associations. If not, our situation will get unimaginably worse,” said K Sridhar, a resident of Thoraipakkam.