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Water Woes

In photos: A village is helping meet Chennai’s water needs, but at considerable cost to itself

A desalination plant in village Sureli Kattakuppam, which provides water to Chennai, has damaged its surroundings.

In the power structure of India, urban areas invariably come before the rural parts. Whenever there is an urban water crisis, ripples of consequences are felt by the rural populace. Sureli Kattakuppam, a village about 35 km south of urban Chennai, is a living testament to that.

Chennai, with a coastline of 26 km, was among the first Indian cities to use desalination for most of its water needs. In 2013, a desalination plant under the control of Chennai Metrowater was built on the shores of Sureli Kattakuppam, off Bay of Bengal, to satisfy the metropolis’ water needs.

For Chennai, the plant, with a capacity to treat 100 million litres of seawater a day, has served its purpose well. For Sureli Kattakuppam however, it has been a misfortune.

The Nemmeli desalination plant has an intimidating presence along the east coast road. Its construction has deprived Sureli Kattakuppam, a victim of the 2004 tsunami, of its basic connect with the ocean, a clean ocean they worship for survival and sanity.

The villagers were promised jobs at the plant and some did get to work there for a short time. But this was before they realised the ill effects of the reverse osmosis technique employed by the plant – the process sucks in saline water from the sea and pumps back toxic water, affecting the marine ecology around Sureli Kattakuppam and, in turn, the fishermen’s livelihoods.

Every few days, hazardous disc filters and ultrafiltration membranes used by the plant to remove suspended solids in the seawater are dumped behind the village on a piece of land that once served as a playfield. The plant’s activities have also contaminated the village’s groundwater, which was once fit for drinking. So today villagers buy drinking water in jerry cans, each at a cost of Rs 60.

Villagers protested against the plant, but in response, the authorities slapped “false cases” against some of them. The fight still rages on.

After three years, Sureli Kattakuppam is still waiting for their clean water.

The desalination plant brought relief to a parched Chennai. But at what cost?



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What to look for when buying your first car in India

Hint: It doesn’t have to be a small car.

When it comes to buying their first car, more Indians are making unconventional choices. Indian car buyers in 2016 are looking for an automobile that is a symbol of their aspirations and sets them apart from the herd. Here are a few things you should consider when buying your first car:

Look beyond small cars

According to the JD Power India Escaped Study (2015), the percentage of new-vehicle shoppers who considered a small car reduced by 20% over three years—from 65% to 45%. Buyers are now looking at bigger, affordable cars and luckily for them, there are more choices available. Known as compact sedans, these cars offer the features of a sedan, are larger than hatchbacks and contain a boot. These sedans offer the comfort and features that once only belonged to expensive luxury cars but at a price that’s within the reach of a first-time car buyer.

Design and styling is important but don’t forget utility.

It’s a good idea to have a car that has been designed over the past three years and doesn’t look outdated. Features like alloy wheels and dual beam headlamps add to the style quotient of your vehicle so consider those. Additionally, look for a car with a sturdy build quality since Indian urban conditions may not always be kind to your car and may furnish it with scrapes and dents along the way.

Image Credit: Volkswagen
Image Credit: Volkswagen

Does it test-drive well?

In 2014, 35% of new-vehicle buyers researched vehicles when they were buying but by 2015, this number had risen to nearly 41% according to the JD Power study. While the internet is the primary source of research in India, the best source of information about a car is always a test drive. Listen to the sales person and read all online reviews, but test every feature to your satisfaction.

Where do you plan to drive?

Look for a car that’s spacious and comfortable while being easy to drive or park on our crowded city roads. Compact sedans are perfectly suited for Indian driving conditions. Some of them come with parking assistance and rear view cameras, rain sensors and front fog lights with static cornering that are excellent driving aids. If you plan to use the car for long drives, compact sedans that provide cruise control, a tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel and a front centre armrest would be perfect. On road trips with family members who usually pack more than necessary, extra elbow room inside and good boot-space is a blessing.

Is the model about to be discontinued?

Never buy a model that is going to be discontinued because it could result in difficulty finding spare parts. Buying an old model will also affect your resale value later. In 2015, according to the same report, 10% of shoppers considered newly launched car models as against 7% in 2013—a strong indication that newer models are being preferred to old ones.

Diesel or petrol?

Diesel and petrol cars have different advantages, and it’s best to take a decision based on the distance you plan to drive on a regular basis. While petrol cars are usually priced lower and are more cost effective when it comes to service and maintenance, diesel cars typically have better mileage due to higher efficiency and provide a smoother drive due to higher torque. Additionally, diesel is the cheaper fuel. So it makes more economic sense to buy a diesel car if you are driving long distances every day.

Most importantly, safety always comes first.

Look for a car that is built sturdy and pays extra attention to safety features like Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS), side impact bars and dual front airbags. Safety is also a function of the design and features such as a galvanized steel body add to the strength of the build. It’s important to remember not to make trade-offs on safety for less important features when choosing variants.

Buying your first car is an important milestone in life. And the new Volkswagen Ameo has been designed with several first-in-segment features to cater to all the needs of a first-time car buyer in India. Its bold design and elegant styling along with state-of-the-art features like cruise control, reverse parking camera and sensors, and intelligent rain sensors set it apart from other cars in its class. Its safety features are also a notch above, with dual front airbags that are standard in every variant and side impact bars. A sturdy galvanized steel body and laser welded roof cocoon its passengers from harm, and its modern ABS, that is also standard in all variants, prevents the wheels from locking when you brake hard. A six-year perforation warranty and a three-year paint warranty ensure that the car body is protected from scratches and dents. The Ameo comes in both petrol and diesel variants. Check out all the features of the Ameo here. Also hear the experience of two first time car buyers in the video below.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Volkswagen and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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