Water scarcity not the only woe for Chennai residents

COVID-19 Environment National

People facing shortage do not maintain social distancing while filling water in the open

By Aarthi N

Chennai|| April 14, 2020

Residents of Chennai who depend on roadside hand pumps and water tankers do not maintain social distancing. Standing close to each other exposes them to the risk of being infected by coronavirus.

Aisha, a resident of Chromepet said: “People are struggling with water scarcity in some areas. In these localities, people crowd around hand pumps to fill their pots. There is no social distancing. Usually, water tankers supply water, but because of the shutdown, people have to fill water from the taps or pumps on streets.”

Priyanka K, a resident of Royapuram, said: “In the evening, people crowd near the water pump on my street to fill water. They do not follow social distancing which they should be following.”
Suburban areas are the worst affected as tankers do not reach people. A resident of Thirumullaivoyal, Divya P, said: “For basic needs, we use groundwater. As I live in a suburban area, we do not get Metro water. Private tankers come twice or thrice a week to fill water in our tank which we use for cooking. Some people collect water from the tankers.”

Nachammai, a resident of Iyyapanthangal, said: “I guess people living in smaller areas like Katupakkam, Vaanagaram, Kundrathur and BPL in the city will have water problems as they do not have Metro connectivity. They have to depend on groundwater for cooking and other purposes. They crowd around tanker lorries to collect water as the groundwater in their localities is not good.”

The residents complain they do not get water, but the Metro water board has a different story to tell. Babu, an official at the office of the area engineer in Madavaram, said: “We send six to eight tankers to Madavaram every day amidst the lockdown. We fill tanks on the streets, and people get water from these tanks.

“Throughout the city, water tankers are being run to supply water to people. As every company is closed, we have more water tankers to spare for residential areas.”

An official from Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply & Sewerage Board, Royapuram zone, said: “Even during lockdown, we are supplying water tankers to residential areas. As per the guidelines, we are following social distancing too. There are always two people in the tanker — a driver and a helper — whom we have instructed to make sure that there are not more than two people to fill water at one time.

The official, who refused to share his name, added: “People should also know that they shouldn’t crowd (around tankers) to fill water. Most of them crowd around because they fear they won’t be able to fill their pots; but we have made sure everyone gets adequate water.”

Due to declining groundwater levels, the Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board had started supplying water using tanker lorries in Central and northwest areas. With no one to enforce social distancing as instructed by the government to prevent the spread of Covid-19, people crowd around the tankers to collect water. The situation has been the same in Chromepet, Royapettah, Avadi, Royapuram and Madavaram.
About the importance of social distancing Dr P. Vijayakumar, a general physician, said: “With the number of new cases rising every single day, the best way to stay safe is to be indoors. Even if one is going out to buy vegetables or groceries, they should follow social distancing. The virus cannot spread when social distancing is followed.”

The corporation should make necessary arrangements for people to fill water. “Though there is a specific time allotted for filling water, they can make sure social distancing is followed by people. They can create awareness among people about the importance of social distancing.” Only then will people understand the seriousness of the issue and avoid forming crowds.

Another physician, Dr Vijay Kumar blamed the mentality of Indians for not following social distancing. “Everybody is well informed and well aware of the social distancing that they should follow to avoid contracting the virus. Nobody listens until someone shouts or hits them. Even in hospitals, people are always in a hurry and do not have the patience to wait for their turn. Only when someone shouts at them, they listen, but that too only for some time. After a while, they again start crowding. Irrespective of socio-economic and educational background, nobody listens to anything that is said for their safety and well-being,” he shared.

Giving a possible solution, he added: “People in power have to be very firm and strict in what they are saying. For example, a vegetable vendor should be firm to tell his customers to stand at a distance.”

According to news reports, the Chennai Metro Water Board had said it would increase the supply of water through pipelines from the current 650 MLD to 830 MLD a month after the desalination plant in Nemmeli begins to function.    

In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced lockdown till May 03, 2020, as well as strict social distancing.

Image Courtesy- Priyanka K


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *