Madurai Corp Commissioner explains that the city’s old pipeline system will be augmented soon with an independently functioning new supply system and this will fix the problem.

Amidst water scarcity frequent pipeline bursts in Madurai worry residentsScreenshot
news Water Crisis Thursday, August 08, 2019 - 14:58

On July 18, residents of Kochadai area in Madurai south were shocked to see water gushing out from a pipe on the ground, flowing out like a river and flooding the streets. The pipe that was carrying fresh water burst at a spot on one side of the road, outside JK Fenner manufacturing unit on the Madurai-melakkal Road in Kochadai, from which gallons of water were expelled.

Mahalakshmi, who runs a small shop selling snacks and cigarettes on the main road, was worried. “We get drinking water once in four days and here so much water was going for waste,” she tells TNM.

Tamilmani’s welding workshop on Indrani Nagar in Mudakusalai lies about 200 metres from site of the pipe burst. Indrani Nagar is a low lying street that descends from the main road. “Thankfully there was a dug up site right next to my workshop so water didn’t enter,” he says pointing to the plot next to his workshop that has now been raised. “There was water up to your calf on my street,” he adds.

The pipe that burst open around 2 am on Thursday continued until 8 am that morning after which the supply was cut. Later, Corporation officials worked on the breakage and fixed the pipe, water receded from the area in two days. But in a city that is already reeling under water scarcity, this pipe burst is bad news. The fact that it frequently happens is even more worrying.

Mahalakshmi says, “It happens now and then but it’s not as bad as how it was that day. But this area is known for it. Even few days ago it happened right outside Bell Hotel,” she tells us.

Those at Bell Hotel, that lies about 100 meters away from Mahalakshmi’s roadside shop, however, are relieved. “There was water continuously flowing out from a broken pipe right outside out hotel for about a week. Customers who came in took photos and shared it on social media as well. We had to send complaints to the Corporation office twice. Only yesterday they fixed it. Even now you can see the sludge that has dried up outside,” says Selvam, the hotel’s manager.

Tamilmani too corroborates that there are more such places where pipes have burst in Madurai. “From Thuvariman to Arasaradi, I’ve heard that there are at least three places with frequent pipe bursts. I remember a similar incident happened in Mudakusalai about 5 years ago,” he says.

On August 4, a similar incident was reported from TPK Road near Periyar Bus stand when the roads were flooded with drinking water that was escaping from a leak in the pipeline.

Explaining that this was immediately fixed, Madurai Corporation Commissioner Visagan says, “The Periyar pipe had to be shifted entirely since it was going through the bus stand. We had planned for shifting it about 10-15 days ago. Then, due to drought there was less pressure in the pipes and so it could not be done. Now the time is right for us to shift it and work is going on.”

He also adds that while corporation has assigned special teams to immediately fix minor leakages across the city, the major ones are mainly being reported from the Madurai-melakkal byepass. “The pipelines were laid in 2009 and there seems to be a workmanship problem. That is why it is frequently happening. We are trying to fix it as quickly as we can. Our response time is much faster when compared to other departments and we’ve got a lot of teams working on it so it is very efficient,” he says.

According to the Madurai Municipal Corporation Budget document from 2017-2018, the city’s water supply distribution network was developed by British Rules in the year 1924. This old supply system was developed for one lakh population with Vaigai River as its main source. Today, the numbers are greatly different. As of 2017, the city has a total population of 2.94 Million.

Visagan explains that this old system will be augmented soon with an independently functioning new supply system. “We will be renovating it for all 100 wards (81 zones) and it will be independent of the existing system. In another 2 years a new system will be in place. Until 2011, in the old corporation had only 78 wards. Close to 100 sq. km has been added now. We were not able to integrate the old system due to a lot of difficulties. Now in the new system it will all be integrated. Such pipeline bursts can also be avoided,” he adds.

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