To quench the thirst of a parched and desperate Chennai, facing severe water scarcity, trains will soon be carrying water from Jolarpet in northern Tamil Nadu, some 200 kilometres from the state capital. Chennai is facing a 40 per cent cut in piped water supply as all four reservoirs outside the city have gone dry.
The decision to supply the city water by train was taken in a crucial meeting chaired by E Palaniswami after the Madras High Court slammed the state government for not doing enough and the opposition DMK calling for a state-wide protest.
There was also public outcry over Mr Palaniswami's comments that water scarcity is media hype.
"We are planning to bring 10 million litres of water by trains from Jolarpet. We have allotted Rs 65 core for this," he said on Friday.
However, on neighbouring Kerala's one-time offer to send two million litres of drinking water by train to Tamil Nadu, the chief minister said his state would ask Kerala to send water on a daily basis as Chennai requires 525 million litres every day.
Around ten lakh residents on Chennai's show piece, the IT corridor, don't have piped water supply for over a decade and depend on private water tankers.
Mr Palaniswami touched a raw nerve by asking people here to buy water with the service fee collected from residents. And the residents are now up in arms.
"This is ridiculous. Why should there be a government then if they want us to fend for ourselves," asked a resident, Rakesh. Anjana, a retired teacher, added, "We pay water tax and lot of property. Why should we be denied water? This is too difficult for us."
Many see this as a damage control by the Chief Minister after being on a denial mode earlier.