Ground water level nosedives

Residents of Ernavoor point fingers at Ennore thermal plant.

Chennai: It is not summer yet but Ernavoor residents are already fretting a water crisis after groundwater level here tumbled by more than 20 feet in less than a week.

Angry residents are pointing fingers of blame at the 660 MW expansion project underway at the Ennore Thermal Power Station (ETPS) as they claimed that excessive groundwater was being sucked out for it.

Valarmathi, a resident of Eraneeswaran Koil street, told DC that there is no water to be drawn even at 60 feet depth. “After the rain (in December 2015), the water level increased considerably but in the last week, the water just vanished,” she said.

The drop in groundwater has affected more than six neighbourhoods in this locality affecting more than 300 families, said Senthil Kumar, a resident.

The issue has been simmering for the last two weeks and it took a turn for the worse when residents blockaded the Ennore High Road prompting officials to take note. 'Lanco Infratech Limited', who are executing the ETPS project, have now called the residents in for a round of talks on Monday.

"But we are not going in for a compromise. They [ETPS] think they can get away with anything but that cannot be the case," said S. Ganapathy, a resident of Makaliamman Koil street.

When contacted, TNEB sources told DC that they have instructed 'Lanco Infratech' to stop using groundwater. "Since they protested, our people have been arranging water privately or using the Metro Water line that supplies water to ETPS," an official said.

But it is not only the sudden decrease in water levels that is bothering residents. For instance, Sivagnanavadivu, a resident of Eraneeswaran Koil street, and Renuka, a resident of Mettu Street, both of whom have open wells dug in the compound of their houses, said that the water in their wells have been developing layers of oil-like substance of late.

"This has never been the case before. We use the well water for drinking and other purposes. I don't know what health complications this will bring us but we have no other source of drinking water," said Renuka.

Access to drinking water is a big problem for residents here simply because there is no supply though the area falls under the Greater Chennai Corporation limits.

As a result, the residents illegally draw water from the supply pipeline that goes to ETPS. "No tanker lorries come here and the Metro Water lorry drivers, on the rare occasion that they visit us, ask the residents to buy diesel for the trucks," said Murugammal, another resident.

"Even then, we get water supply only once every three or four days and since whole neighbourhoods have connected illegally to the pipeline, the water pressure is very weak. To fill up a bucket, it takes 20 minutes or more," she added. Senthil Kumar, who is also the DYFI secretary, Thiruvotriyur-Ennore area, said that Ernavoor's predicament has created a lot of resentment among residents.

"It is a political situation. The government and local politicians don't want unnecessary problem because this is a situation waiting to explode. They are very well aware that we are drawing water illegally but it is a compromise that they will not dare alter," he said.

"We are waiting for the campaigning period [for assembly polls] to start. All the residents here are ready to shoo away any politician who will enter our area," he added.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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