Silence and uncertainty shroud OMR water supply projects

While the Chennai Metro Water site displays a vibrant water and sewage network plan in place for the OMR IT Corridor, no one, not even officials seem to know the actual status of these projects.

In an earlier article, we had written about how residents of the IT corridor on the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) continue to incur huge expenses in procuring water and ensuring proper sewage disposal in the face of the state’s failure to provide adequate infrastructure for the same.

Yet one question that gnaws at them all the time is this: When will the OMR stretch get its water and sewer lines? This is now the proverbial million dollar question to which nobody has a precise answer.

A visit to the Chennai Metro Water website indicates a vibrant water and sewage network plan in place for the IT Corridor. CMWSSB admits that water supply and sewerage infrastructure should have been ensured prior to formation of IT Express Road. “Rapid development and a fast growing population warrant potable water supply to consumers along IT Corridor,” it says.

An action plan for implementation of the project under Phase-1 speaks of a water and sewer network from Kottivakkam to Siruseri. The website says the water project is implemented in two packages and sewage work in five packages. All the works under these packages were commenced in 2007 and the status of six works is shown as “completed,” where as the one water package has been “terminated.”

But no resident of OMR has received water and sewage connection yet. Ramaswamy Rangachari, a retired banker who lives in Kumaraswamy Nagar says CMWSSB had commenced work in the area two years ago and the work seems to have been completed now.

“They started the sewage and water line project, dug up the road and made our lives miserable for two years. Technically the work seems to have been completed in some pockets, but we are yet to get water and sewage connection,” he says.

On the contrary, the work has not yet commenced to provide water to houses that are close to Adyar where the IT Corridor begins. Praveen Tirouvth who lives just two and a half kilometres away from Adyar on OMR says that the work on pipeline has not yet started in his area.

However, he wonders how some of the colonies behind his house have succeeded in getting a water connection. “CMWSSB seems to have provided water connection to some of the houses in the colonies which are at a certain distance from the main road. They got the connection recently, whereas there has been no trace of work starting for the houses on the main road. I guess it has something to do with political connections,” he guesses.

CMWSSB FOMRRA Coordinator Harsha Koda is critical of the project plans that are up on the CMWSSB website. “None of those have been commissioned on the west side of OMR. Certain pockets on the eastern side of OMR have been covered, but not really all streets,” he says. He too believes that a few colonies have been able to get the water connection due to political influence.

Where will the water come from?

Even in  those areas where the pipelines have been laid recently, there is absolutely no clarity on where the CMWSSB will actually procure the water from. Rangachari, in whose neighbourhood the lines have been laid, tells us he has no clue either. “The strange thing about this water project is nobody knows how we are going to get the water. Our attempts to reach the Chennai Metro Water with enquiries on the same have proved futile.”

He also wonders if they are actually going to get water from the water purification unit established on the Porur lake bed. “They are now talking of getting water from Porur. But nothing is certain. I keep meeting elected representatives and Metro Water officials, but they hardly give out any information. Now they have made a new promise: of getting us water supply by this December. That is the new deadline, but we have seen several such deadlines come and go in the past too,” he states.

Some citizens say that initially, when the IT Corridor was just developing, there were talks of getting water to the corridor from the Nemmeli seawater desalination plant. “They were supposed to supply us water from the Nemmeli desalination plant and that is what the residents were hoping for. But then though both the plants are set up parallelly to the OMR and are located at a short distance, steps were not taken to materialise it. If we residents enquire with the officials, they say they have a problem digging out the road that connects the desalination plant to OMR. If they ever do dig up the road, perhaps we will get water,” Harsha Koda hopes.

With the latest news reports on the Tamil Nadu government seeking the Central government’s approval for setting up yet another desalination plant in Chennai, the residents now hope to get water from the new desalination plant in at least those pockets where the pipeline has been laid.

“With no other source of water to supply so many houses on OMR, we hope to get water if the new desalination project takes off. Otherwise, chances of the OMR stretch receiving piped water are almost non-existent,” says Praveen Tirouvth.

No response from officials

Strangely, when Citizen Matters tried contacting the Metro Water officials, none of them agreed to respond. Each official whom this reporter called, on being asked about the status of laying water and sewerage network in OMR, passed the buck, saying they were not aware of the facts.

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