Kochi city is reeling under water shortage, so much so that suburbs refuse to share water with their city counterparts. Tanker-lorry owners complain that panchayats and villages from where they usually take water to supply to city-folks are now blocking them from doing so.
Aluva, Puthencruz, Kalamassery, Thiruvaniyoor, Kakkanad, Thiruvankulam and Tripunithura that lie on the outskirts of the city, are places from where water is normally sourced for supply to the city.
But with the real danger of a drought lurking ahead, locals in these areas are beginning to protest against such sharing of water.
“This is the season for tanker-service. The demand is very high, compared to the previous year. It is mainly flats and apartments that demand our service. Water from the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) is scarce during summers. This time with the prolonged heat, the situation is even worse. We now face a huge crisis owing to these protests,” says PA Ali -joint secretary of the Ernakulam District Drinking Water Tankers Welfare Association- while speaking to The News Minute.
According to Ali, it is the norm for tanker-lorry owners to take wells or ponds on lease: “Good quality water is available only in the suburbs. Come to think of it, when we draw water in such large quantities, it is a given that nearby wells will face water shortage. But we are left with no choice. We do pay a good amount every year to rent these wells and ponds.”
Of the 55 tanker-lorry owners in the association, some members own one or two lorries, while others own about 25. All these lorries run throughout the day in this peak season. Yet they are unable to meet the high demand due to the blocking of supply, despite about 400 tankers plying for this very purpose.
“Whenever residents raise objections, we stop work to avoid creating a scene. This year, the ground-water level is very low. We cannot blame them for their attitude. Many panchayats have even passed resolutions to restrict the drawing of water,” remarks Sakir Husein -resident of the welfare association.
Thiruvaniyoor Grama Panchayat is one such.
“We do know that that those in the city need water, but once we allow them to draw water, our wells dry up. We were forced to take a decision based on the numerous complaints we have received from the natives. So in a meeting with the tanker-lorry owners, it was decided that they be allowed to draw water only at a pre-decided time during the day. Earlier, they used to do so even at night. Water shortage is very severe in this panchayat, with water not available for even household chores,” explains IV Shaji -Thiruvaniyoor Panchayat Standing Committee Chairperson.
For those who live within the city limits, tankers are a lifeline that they depend on for use in the kitchen, since water supplied by the KWA water is not of good quality during summers.
“We have absolutely no clue about what will happen when summer really begins in a couple of months. The demand has never been this high,” says Sakir Husein, sounding worried.