Tacit treachery of private water tankers
Tacit treachery of private water tankers. Because of the compelling demand, tanker operators hike the charges by Rs 200-300.
- Because of the compelling demand, tanker operators hike the charges by Rs 200-300
- Private tankers charge even up to Rs 1,000 for 5000 litres
- Illegal operators draw water from polluted lakes and bore-wells along the nalas which is a health hazard
- There is a nexus between tanker operators and administration
Come summer, the erratic water supply compels people to rely on water tankers for all their needs. There is an exponential spurt in the number of water tankers that are catering to the needs of people in multi storeyed apartments in the city. Until 2004, there were not more than 400 water tankers in the city and the water board hired them on a fixed rental per day. But post 2004, the water board started sharing profits with the tanker owners which led to the increase in the number of water tankers to 700, with an estimated 300 water tankers supplying water illegally.
The demand for drinking water has reached an un-scalable proportion in the city and even the private water tankers have to be booked a couple of days in advance. A 5,000-litre water tanker, which normally costs Rs 300-350 during off-season, is now going for Rs 550, and in some cases even up to Rs 750.
The packaged water and water tankers are viewed as the solution to the city’s drinking water woes but this solution has a heavy price. This ever flourishing industry has sucked in water from the lakes and even the ground water.
On an average, the city consumes 50 lakh litres of mineral water a day and buys another 50 million litres from private tanker operators. There is a ban on digging bore-wells for commercial purpose. Despite the ruling water is being brazenly pumped out from the lakes in the city outskirts and filled into innumerable tankers which supply water to the city.
Sadly, despite the concerns of the environmentalists regarding rise in temperatures and zero possibility of ground water recharge, the side-effects of the water tankers aren’t on anyone’s radar and are going unnoticed. It is estimated as many as 50 natural lakes are currently being exploited by private players. Farmers, on the outskirts, who have large land and abundant water, have jumped into the lucrative business. Even the localities in the city that have ample ground water reserves turned as hubs for mineral water business.
Apart from the official tankers, as many as 300 water tankers supply water illegally. These tankers make at least 10 trips per day and charges up to Rs 1,000 for 5000 litres depending on the demand.
Lakes are disappearing
There were 1,500 major lakes in the city, prior to the year 2000. Now hardly 500 are left, yet the alarm bells aren’t ringing. As every summer passes by more and more lakes are disappearing.
Currently, Ameenpur Lake in Patancheru feeds about 30 bore-wells and most of them were drilled in last and this season to fill water tankers. A lake in Shamshabad, which was drinking water source to the villages nearby, almost dried to a trickle because of the illegal bore-wells. The lake is now known as a key water supplier for tankers. Tankers lining up on the banks of the river Musi at Chaderghat are a usual sight every morning and evening. The sad part though is that polluted water is supplied to various residential complexes in the city and the people are consuming it without realising the lurking danger and are falling sick.
Not just residential buildings but industries and factories on the outskirts are also key customers of private tanker operators. The business of private water is thriving in areas including Kukatpally, Serilingampally, Miyapur, Patancheru, Alwal, Medchal, Kushaiguda and Saroornagar.
Contaminated water being supplied
Though water tankers are catering to the drinking water needs, there is always a risk of the water being contaminated. Nothing better than the sight of tankers lined up on the banks of the Musi at Chaderghat stands a testimony. However, the water tanker operators argue that they don’t supply contaminated water.
“There are many players in this tanker business including legal and illegal operators. If we supply contaminated water for one day, the next day the residents will call the other operator. However, there are a few players who draw water from contaminated lakes for quick bucks but they don’t last long,” says Pratap Reddy, a water tanker operator based in Kushaiguda.
A scientist with PCB says that the water contamination is mostly due to ground water contamination rather than anything else. “The ground water in the periphery areas of Patancheru and Katedan IDA has been contaminated and polluted due to the pollutants from the industries. If the water is drawn from these sources then it is contaminated,” he adds.
He also held age old water pipelines of the Water Board responsible for water contamination. “The private tankers, which are under contract with the water board, have to draw water from the water tanks of the board. However, some few operators prefer filling of tankers from jocket connections (A wide pipeline from which domestic pipelines branch out). These pipelines run along the nalas and sewers and most of them are mostly corroded, thus the water from the nalas entering the pipeline is contaminated water,” he adds.
Most of the tanker operators enjoy the tacit support of the administration, which lends a blind eye as they exploit natural water sources. But Imran Khan, owner of four tankers, says that nothing in the business is illegal. "There are 60 filling stations that cater to 500 tankers. Our movements are monitored, we only do deliveries which are passed by the board to the areas which are inside the GHMC limits," he says.
A tanker operator from Saroornagar says, "We are not selling water supplied by the water board, so it is not illegal. We draw ground water from my property, so what is the problem? I have been doing it for years and nobody has raised any objection to it."