Access to safe drinking water is a fundamental right. But for many families living on the outskirts of Kochi, it is a luxury. Take Cheranalloor for instance. Over 100 families have been waiting for years to get a stable water connection here.

“The well water is not suitable for drinking. So we use it for bathing and washing. We shell out Rs 200 every week to buy drinking water in cans,” said Kanakamma, a resident of west Cheranalloor.

For the low-income families living there, spending Rs 200 every week amid Covid is not easy, but they do not have any option. The pipes installed by Kerala Water Authority (KWA) have been dysfunctional for years. “Several requests were made to the Cheranalloor panchayat to resolve the issue, but there has not been any favourable response,” said Kanakamma.

Those who cannot afford canned water have to rely on unsafe drinking water. It often causes health problems to many. Venu, 55, says: “I run a small roadside stall and make a meagre revenue. I can hardly make both ends meet with it. Since I cannot afford cans, I boil well water and use it for drinking and cooking, believing that it is safe,” he said.

Cheranalloor panchayat president K J Rajesh said water is scarcer this year. If the issue is not addressed ahead of summer, there will face dire consequences.

“Water issues have persisted in Cheranalloor for years. We informed KWA about the situation, but they haven’t taken any actions to resolve it,” said Rajesh. 

“Families in Cheranalloor need over MLD (seven million litres per day)  of water for their usage. But only around 3-4 MLD water reaches the area,” he added.

When contacted, the KWA officials said laying pipelines to pump water from the Thammanam pump house to the Cheranalloor water tank could be an option. But according to them, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) did not allow to lay pipes underneath the highway, delaying the plan. 

“The government had allotted Rs 21 crore for this. But when it was proposed, NHAI didn’t allow laying of pipelines underneath the road. Instead, they suggested constructing a duct on the service road. Since this would be expensive, we are working on a draft proposal that doesn’t involve the highway, “ said Jochan Joseph, superintending engineer, CH Circle Kochi, KWA.

Rising demand

Unfortunately, Cheranalloor’s is not a one-off case. Many areas in Thammanam, Edakochi, Vaduthala and Kadavanthra share this fate. 

Last summer, owing to Covid-induced lockdown, many commercial establishments and institutions were shut down, and water demand declined. But this year, since most restrictions have been lifted, activities are in full swing, and demand for potable water has increased.

KWA admits this too and it claims to have been implementing projects to tackle the issue. “Kochi city receives water from Aluva and Maradu water treatment plants. The installed capacity of the Aluva plant is 225 MLD. Understanding the demand-supply gap, we are increasing the capacity of the plant to 296 MLD ahead of summer. The Maradu plant produces 90 MLD,” said Jochan. But Kochiites feel it is not enough.

“Every time we raise the issue, they give us such false promises. KWA authorities and district administration should intervene to put an end to this,” said Rangadasa Prabhu, president, Ernakulam District Residents Associations’ Apex Council.

Mayor intervenes

Last week, Kochi corporation Mayor M Anilkumar held a meeting with KWA officials to address the water shortage in the city. “Pipes have developed leak in various parts of the city. KWA superintending engineer has been asked to put forth suggestions,” said the mayor adding that it is time KWA gave up outdated practices and implemented advanced technologies like sensors to technically detect and fix malfunctions in pipelines. The mayor also said the water authority is planning to set up a new plant by Periyar river in Aluva to improve water supply to the city.

Need better strategies

According to Dr Dhanuraj, chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), the lack of sufficient data on water supply and scarcity is a hindrance to conducting scientific studies regarding the decades-long issue. “City planning officials should consider water as a commodity and conduct scientific analysis. This will give a clear picture of the actual issue and ways to resolve it,” he said. Dhanuraj suggested geo-tagging as a measure to develop efficient maintenance strategies for water supply systems. 

CPPR Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments in a news article published in The New Indian Express on January 15, 2022. Click here to read

Chairman at Centre for Public Policy Research | + posts

Dr Dhanuraj is the Chairman of CPPR. His core areas of expertise are in international relations, urbanisation, urban transport & infrastructure, education, health, livelihood, law, and election analysis. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @dhanuraj.

D Dhanuraj
D Dhanuraj
Dr Dhanuraj is the Chairman of CPPR. His core areas of expertise are in international relations, urbanisation, urban transport & infrastructure, education, health, livelihood, law, and election analysis. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @dhanuraj.

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