Chennai water crisis: Overflowing tanks for some, pipe dreams for others

At Perumbakkam, faulty plumbing system leaves some blocks with excess water, which is collected by those facing shortage

Published: 29th June 2019 04:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th June 2019 12:45 PM   |  A+A-

Water collected from pipes that drain excess water from overhead tanks; a resident carries water pots on his bicycle. | (Martin Louis | EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Every morning residents of Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) tenements at Perumbakkam queue up not in front of public taps or hand pumps, but the drain pipe from the roof of what they call ‘VIP blocks’.

Water supply to the 160 occupied blocks (each block contains 96 houses) at Perumbakkam is erratic. While people from the interior blocks do not know if and when they will get water, water from the overhead tank in the blocks right in front of the settlement overflows day and night, said residents.

“The authorities do not turn the motor off; so water keeps overflowing and comes down through the drain pipe where we collect it,” said 34-year-old Durga Devi. A similar thing is happening in block 51.

Water collected from these pipes are carried in elevators to respective houses. In blocks where the elevators do not function, residents haul it, even up to the eighth floor.

“Here water is overflowing, but in our house there is no water. We have to wait until the day after to get water,” said Jennifer A, who was shifted here from Aminjikarai.

While water is supplied once in two days, residents say it seldom reaches them due to wastage and faulty plumbing system.

Two houses now share a 500-litre overhead tank. If one of these two houses is collecting water, the other has to wait until they close their tap. If one house collects more than their share, the other suffers.

Maintenance is another issue.

“Around four months ago, we found a dead dog in the sump from which water is supplied to our houses. We removed it. If not, no one would have ever known,” said Pandian K, who shifted from Chintadripet.

When contacted, a senior Slum Clearance Board official said that the board ensures that each house gets around 200-300 litres a day.

“The problem is only for those without storage drums. For others, water is sufficient. I have instructed staff to take up repair works wherever necessary,” the official said.

At Kannagi Nagar, moneylenders are making a killing. Almost every house has a small motor to transfer water from storage drums to overhead tanks. Setting up a motor costs around Rs 13,000.

“Water comes once in 4-5 days and we have to store it in 225-litre drums. We need water in our toilets and kitchens and cannot carry water upstairs. A motor is a necessity,” said 58-year old Mageswari of a two-storeyed apartment.

For this, she approached a moneylender who gave her money at an interest of over Rs 3,000 a month. Mageswari is a conservancy worker who makes `6,200 a month. Her husband is a daily wage labourer. Unable to afford bubble tops, her family drinks water supplied to them.

“The quality of water is extremely poor. For the first 15 minutes whenever water is supplied we let it go waste. It’s almost black and has an odour. It is this water some of us drink,” said 22-year-old Ajith M.

When water comes every four days, residents store it in drums from which a hose connected to the motor takes water to the overhead tank to be distributed to taps inside houses.

“The motor costs Rs 6,000. Drums, pipes, cables, setting it up and labour charges together comes to another Rs 6,000 to 7,000,” said Ramalakshmi L, a resident.

Swachh Bharat be damned

With acute water shortage in the area, boys of Government High School in Perumbakkam claim they have been asked to relieve themselves in the open.

“They said there is no water. If we want to defecate, we have to wait until we go home,” said a class four student.

The school has two toilets. Students and parents said that after lunch, students wash their lunch boxes with water drawn directly from an unmanned sump, at least 50-ft deep.

“What will happen if one of them falls into it. There is no way to come up,” said S Elumalai, a resident and parent. When contacted the headmaster of the school said, “ I cannot be responsible for such things.”

Nod to stir

The Madras High Court has permitted Arappor Iyakkam, an NGO, to observe a fast at Valluvar Kottam in connection with acute water scarcity on Sunday.

“It is important to realise as to why we have reached the present state of affairs as a result of various water bodies that were allowed to be encroached,” Justice N Anand Venkatesh observed and allowed the fast till 2pm.

‘Inspect borewells’

CHENNAI: A division bench of the Madras High Court has directed the Kancheepuram Collector to inspect borewells, allegedly sunk by three individuals in Gowriwakkam and file a report as to whether any licence was granted to them to extract groundwater.

The bench of Justice S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad gave the directive.


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