RAMANATHAPURAM: Sainamul Biwi of Iruveli village scoops up a handful from a waterhole by the roadside. Health officials might sneer at water sources like these, but Biwi couldn’t care less. “The private water trucks haven’t come in three days,” she said.
Everyone loves a good drought, as that sage man said. So the six private wells at Kotamedu are having the time of their lives. Fifty trucks queue up at each borewell at any time of the day and, as Krishna, driver of a 6,000 litre truck, says, “We start at 4 in the morning and go on till 10.”
Water is delivered to Kamudhi, Kadaladi and Mudukulathur. They pay borewell owner Rs 100 per load and sell at Rs 3-10 a pot, depending upon distance. Each load of 6,000 litres fills about 320 pots and at two trips a day per truck, business is blooming in this desert.
Visila, a resident of Mandalamanickam, said she buys two to four pots for her family of four everyday at Rs 5 a pot. Kannirajapuram is another water business hub. Though the wells here have almost dried up, tanker owners are determined to keep at it. Said driver Serin Raj: “You see this truck here? It has been drawing water since 8.30 in the morning and is not full yet.” It was past three in the afternoon.
Many private trucks also deliver water to the 2500-acre solar power project at Kamuthi, said to be the second-largest in the world. Water is needed to wash away dust that accumulates on solar panels.
In this aridscape of Ramanathapuram, a festival is when a pipeline springs a leak. Like ants to sugar, villagers gather to make the most of it, exchanging gossip and smiling at their good fortune. Today, at this leak point in Thirupullani, the topic is how the farmer whose fields adjacent to the damaged pipeline harvested two crops of paddy entirely with this spring. Indeed, the paddies in the field seemed chancy and happy.
There is a code of Omerta about the lucky leaks. The women don’t want the leak fixed. “Don’t take pictures here,” 37-year-old Kala warned me. “The last time one of you lot took a picture, they closed the leak.”