Residents of Chennai can heave a sigh of relief as the Tamil Nadu Private Water Tanker Lorry Owners’ Association has temporarily called off its strike that was set to begin from May 27. However, this may not last long according to Nijalingam N, President of South Chennai Private Water Tanker Association.
“We have been given an appointment to meet with the Minister of Municipal Administration on Monday, after which we will know more. Moreover, people think this strike is our doing. Anyway, with our water situation, all tankers will stop functioning soon. It is only a matter of time,” he warns.
“We have been asking people to email the Metro Water department and to the municipal office about their needs. It might garner more attention when people raise their voice,” he adds.
Close to 5000 water tankers of the association that supply water to Chennai from Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts had earlier decided to go on strike, starting May 27.
The main reason cited by Nijalingam for calling the strike was non-cooperation by village authorities and villages in Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts to drawing groundwater. In view of the plummeting levels of groundwater, the strike would have put residents of Chennai city in a sticky situation.
“We were trying to reach an amicable solution with the villagers who protest when we draw water. But government authorities like the Village Officer (VO) and other lower level officers from the Mining Resources Development Department (Kanimavala Thurai) are the ones who are making it difficult for us. But with a little cooperation from Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewage Board at, a few tankers are functioning right now. This strike is not ours but by the government officers,” he tells TNM.
“We’ve spoken to the collectors from all three districts, and they have agreed to us operating. But even as we’ve withdrawn our strike temporarily, one of our tankers was stopped last night and a CSR was filed,” he adds.
On average, water tankers supply about 5 crore litres of water to residents of Chennai. One tanker with a capacity to supply 12,000 litres of water costs about Rs 900 but if it is carried beyond 20 kilometres for distribution, an additional Rs 200-Rs 300 is charged.
“It is a very tough predicament for us. Water is the most basic need. We are not stealing groundwater like how the media hypes it to be. There’s a requirement for water and we supply it. The lack of water only puts more pressure on us,” Nijalingam says.