With a 54 per cent deficit monsoon, the drinking water supply in Chennai is already down by 44 per cent. The reservoirs supplying water to Chennai has hardly any water with a combined storage of 1 TMC water. The looming water scarcity this summer has turned into a key poll issue.
In an unprecedented move, the federation of residents associations representing around 15 lakh residents along Chennai's IT corridor (FOMRA) under South Chennai Lok Sabha have written to all candidates to spell out their plan to provide them piped drinking water and underground sewage. Over the last eight years though, every family here pays Rs 1,200 water tax but the corporation has not provided potable water nor sewage. Each family shells out Rs 30,000 a year to buy water and to clear sewage using private operators.
Prabha Hoda, a member of this group, says, "They've been looting us quite literally."
Another member, Rakesh Ohri, said, "They've failed miserably and now they have the audacity to ask for our votes again."
Mohandas, another representative, added, "Water is the key election issue this time." Harsha Hoda, an active member, said, "We thought we would ask what they would do for us and take an informed decision on who we would vote for rather than
waiting at their doorstep later."
In 2015, the city witnessed unprecedented floods ruining lifetime savings of four lakh families. But four years later there are no functional storm water drains in newly-developed areas nor are there measures to save water. Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam or MNM promises free drinking water to all. The Dravidian arch rivals offer setting up another desalination plant as solution.
Kamal Hassan told NDTV, "If free water is guaranteed it would enable more women to go for jobs. The sixty thousand ponds would straight way give hundred jobs. Ultimately each pond will give ten jobs in the long run. It's possible."
J Jayavardhan, MP and AIADMK South Chennai Candidate, says, "I'm taking efforts to build an additional MLD desalination plant to solve this issue."
However, his rival, DMK candidate Tamilachi Thangapandian, claimed, "It was our leader Kalaignar (M Karunanidhi) who had started two desalination plants but AIADMK did not expand. When Thalapathi (Stalin) assumes office in Tamil Nadu we would forward and finish another desalination plant."
For more than two years, Tamil Nadu is without elected local bodies and none is accountable to public. So this time, Chennai elections are largely fought on local issues particularly water and basic amenities.