Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Friday thanked his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan for offering 20 lakh litres of drinking water to the drought-hit state, ANI reported. This came a day after the state declined Kerala’s offer of aid.
Palaniswami said at a press conference in Chennai that he would soon write back to Vijayan. “We need every drop of water,” PTI quoted him as saying. The press conference was held following an emergency meeting of the Tamil Nadu Cabinet.
Palaniswami said two million litres of water per day would not be sufficient, The Indian Express reported. “We are supplying 525 MLD water [in Chennai] and if 2 MLD water could be given every day, it will be useful for the people,” he said.
However, the Tamil Nadu chief minister claimed the Kerala government was not allowing it to strengthen the Mullaperiyar dam. Five districts, including Theni and Ramanathapuram, were dependent on Mullaiperiyar water for their livelihood, he added. He appealed to Kerala to fill up the dam.
“Tamil Nadu government is working to strengthen Mullaperiyar dam in order to store more water,” he said. “Unfortunately, Kerala government is not letting us do this. I urge Kerala government to cooperate with us on this.”
He claimed reports of guest houses and schools shutting down temporarily due to water scarcity were not true. “There is no such situation prevailing,” he added.
The Tamil Nadu chief minister said his government was doing all it can to rectify the water problem, The News Minute reported. Senior officers have been put in charge of each zone in Chennai to identify areas of water scarcity and ensure the supply of water. “From Jolarpettai, the government will bring 10 MLD [million litres per day] water to Chennai by railway wagons for the next six months,” he said. “Rs 65 crore has been allocated for that purpose in today’s meeting.”
Palaniswami said the government has set a price for water supplied through tankers. “People pay more if they need water immediately,” he said, addressing complaints about exorbitant rates. “If people living in an apartment are rich, they pay Rs 4,000 extra and get water immediately. Because of this, others are also forced to pay more to get water.”
The chief minister denied ministers’s homes were being supplied with 27,000 litres of water daily. “This is wrong news,” he claimed. “All of us are getting water just like you.”
Palaniswami also blamed the delayed monsoon for water scarcity. He claimed the state was unable to act due to the General Elections, which ended in May. “Once it was done, we immediately took action and allocated money for the water crisis,” he added. The government has sanctioned Rs 158.42 crore to tackle the crisis.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office had said: “Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office contacted the office of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister with this offer. However, we have been informed that the assistance was not required now. The government of Kerala wanted to send 20 lakh litres of drinking water by train from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai.”
It is not clear why the Tamil Nadu government had initially rejected the offer of help. According to Tamil Nadu Municipal Administration Minister SP Velumani, deficiencies in groundwater conservation projects have been identified at various places, including Chennai, and are being corrected.
Velumani admitted that Tamil Nadu was facing its worst drought ever recorded, but added that rains were expected in a few days. He said groundwater had depleted in Chennai as the city received rainfall 190 days ago. Water is being supplied through lorries, and borewells are being dug, he added.
On Tuesday, Palaniswami had accused the media of “creating an illusion” of water scarcity in the state even as the Madras High Court criticised his government for mismanagement of water resources.