South Chennai faces crisis yet again as private sewage tankers go on mass strike

The city's Metro Water Board has increased the price for the discharge of one load of sewage from Rs 100 to Rs 250 in the Perungudi treatment plant.
Image used for representational purpose only. (File photo | EPS)
Image used for representational purpose only. (File photo | EPS)

CHENNAI: Around 1,500 private sewage tankers plying to southern parts of Chennai are on an indefinite strike once again. However, this time they are striking against the city’s Metro Water Board’s decision to increase the price for the discharge of one load of sewage from `100 to `250 in the Perungudi treatment plant. The private tankers have stopped service since Monday afternoon.

Two months ago, the city was almost brought to a standstill when private water tankers went on strike for about three days. The reasons for the strike then were the restrictions imposed by the Madras High Court on the extraction of groundwater from over-exploited areas.Residents living along OMR once again find themselves in a fix due to their dependence on private tankers for water and sewage clearance. “The tanker driver who comes to my apartment informed me yesterday about the strike.

Yet again, we residents are left to face the backlash of the government’s incapacity to provide us such basic amenities. Metro Water has been promising for four years now to provide us with a water and sewage system. But this remains only on paper,” said Harsha Koda, coordinator of Federation of OMR Resident Associations (FOMRRA).The reason for the strike now is the hike in the charges collected from the private tankers from the Perungudi Sewage Treatment plant. 

The plant is the sole main point of discharge for these tankers, which collect sewage from hotels, multi-storeyed apartment complexes and households from Tambaram, Guduvancherry, Medavakkam, Jaladarampet and along the OMR and ECR stretches. For the past five years, each tanker carrying one load of 6,000 to 9,000 litres of sewage was charged `100 to discharge wastewater into the plant for treatment.

But since the first week of November, the price to discharge one load was hiked to `250 said Ravi D, member of Private Sewage Tanker Lorry Association. “We collect `500 from residents and most of it is spent on the driver and cleaner’s salary and on fuel expenses. This increase is too steep and is not feasible for us. When we spoke to Metro Water officials, they refused to lower the prices and did not give a reason for the sudden hike,” he said.

Private tankers now charge `500-`600 to pump out sewage from septic tanks of apartments and hotels which aren’t connected to the underground drainage system. If these discharge prices are increased, association members said they will have to charge residents `750-`800. “In one day, each tanker makes a minimum of 10 trips to the STP. If the prices are increased each lorry will have to pay an extra of `1,500. We will prolong the strike until the government reduces the discharge rate,” said N Nijalingam, president of South Chennai Private Water Tanker Lorry Association.

Metro Water officials confirmed the hike in prices and said that it was a long-pending revision in prices. “It is unlikely that these prices will be brought down. For five years and more, prices were not increased. Once the underground sewage line is functional by March along OMR, people will not have to depend on private tankers to dispose of wastewater anymore,” said the official.

Increase in prices
Private tankers charge `500-`600 to pump out sewage apartments not connected to the underground drainage system. If prices are increased, residents will have to pay `750-`800.

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The New Indian Express