For the past few days, parts of Kochi, which depend on tanker lorries for drinking water, have been facing a severe water crisis. The worst-hit among them is the InfoPark in Kakkanad, one of the largest technology parks of the state. Several companies have been forced to shut down following the acute water crisis.
Operation Pure Water, a project launched in Ernakulam district on the directive of Kerala State Assembly Committee on Petitions, is cited as the reason for the water crisis. Through Operation Pure Water, it was directed that tanker lorries could only take water from the hydrants of the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) to ensure good quality of water transported.
The tanker lorry association had warned, well in advance, that the implementation of such a directive, without increasing the number of hydrant points, would lead to a severe water crisis in the city.
As a temporary measure, the Ernakulam district administration on Wednesday released an order that tanker lorries can collect water from private wells, as they used to do, for 10 days. However, it failed to meet the water requirements of InfoPark, and eventually led to a water shortage.
Though the district administration had supplied water through a few tanker lorries to InfoPark on Thursday night, it is not sufficient to meet the need for about 20 lakh litres of water per day.
“Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA) supplied water to InfoPark. But for the last two months, this has been disrupted as the supply facility had a breakdown. We have been depending on tanker lorries since then, but now, with tanker lorries being caught in the mess, there is absolutely no water, even for employees to use toilets,” Anish Panthalani, a member of Progressive Techies, a collective of techies, said.
There are more than 250 companies in InfoPark with more than 20,000 employees. With no water, employees state that several companies have been closed down for the last two days. “Some companies have asked the staff to work from home and some others have moved to a temporary facility outside InfoPark. But about 15 companies have been closed down,” Anish told TNM.
Progressive Techies has raised the issue to the Chief Minister’s Office as well as Ganesh Kumar MLA, who heads the state assembly committee on petitions, which proposed Operation Pure Water.
Though tanker lorries were temporarily permitted to take water from old private sources, water supply has not become completely effective as before.
Speaking to TNM, Mathew, a member of Drinking Water Owners Welfare Association, said, “We are required to submit an application form to the district collectorate to get permission for this. They will then issue an identification number so that we don’t get caught in inspections. But the process to get the temporary permit is a day’s work.”
The tanker lorry associations in the city are also apprehensive that things will turn sour again once the temporary period of 10 days, granted for sourcing water from private wells, is over.
When Operation Pure Water was mooted last December, it was stated that more hydrant points will be added for the ease of implementation. According to the tanker lorry associations, however, this was not done.
There are only two points now, one in Aluva, which takes water from the Periyar River and the other in Maradu, which brings water from Muvattupuzha.
“It is difficult for all of these tankers to source water from the two hydrant points of KWA in the city. We have to stay in a queue for hours. Usually, a tanker takes up to six trips a day, but with this directive being enforced, trips per day have been limited to a maximum of three,” said Mathew.