COIMBATORE: The DMK, which till recently vehemently opposed handing over water supply project to a private player, has made a U-turn on the issue with Minister for municipal administration KN Nehru clarifying that the project would not be scrapped.
In 2018, the AIADMK government chose French firm Suez to distribute drinking water on 24X7 basis to every household in Coimbatore Corporation limits. The scope of the 400mn Euro (Rs 2972 cr approx) project includes optimization, rehabilitation and operation of the water distribution for to ensure continuous drinking water to the city for a period of 25 years. The project would be part funded by the Union government through AMRUT, JNNURM and Smart Cities projects. Suez will draw water from Pilloor and Siruvani dams. A sum of Rs 646 crore was allocated for the first phase in 2019 and work to lay pipeline is in progress.
DMK, which was the main Opposition party at that time, opposed the project. The party's Singanallur MLA N Karthik led several protests against the project along with allies over the last three years. Karthik, who contested this year, assured the electorate that the project would be cancelled if the DMK is voted to power. He lost the elections.
With DMK forming the government, speculation was rife that the project would not continue. Minister Nehru, however, scorched rumours and said that it was not possible to cancel the project as most of the work has been completed. Sources said pipeline has been laid for around 200 kilometres in 60 wards of Coimbatore Corporation.
"The DMK had earlier opposed the project. We insisted that supply of drinking water should not be given to a private company. But much of the basic structural work for the project has been completed and we cannot cancel the midway. We will implement it in a better way," Nehru told The New Indian Express.
DMK's allies meanwhile said that they are not aware of the government's decision. "A few months ago when the minister attended a review meeting in Coimbatore, he stated that the government will not allow privatization in water supply. Nothing has been officially announced about the project since then. We strongly oppose letting private players handle drinking water project. We will take this issue to the government's notice," said P R Natarajan, Coimbatore MP of the CPM. Karthik could not be contacted for his comments.
Meanwhile, there is speculation that the Government has scrapped the integrated bus terminus proposed at Vellalore at a cost of Rs 168 crores following reports that reports some politicians have invested in the land surrounding the bus terminal. Minister Nehru denied the claims and said no such decision has been taken. "Somebody might have invested in the land expecting the bus terminus project. However much of the public tax money has been spent on it and the works are almost completed. So there is no second thought on building the bus terminus. We are looking to rope in a private player to fund the project," he added.