Over 400 illegal structures are hindering the development works planned by the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) on the century-old pipeline bringing water to the Kilpauk treatment plant.
The pipeline connecting the Red Hills reservoir and the Kilpauk treatment plant was built out of bricks in 1914 by the British below New Avadi Road. Another one came up in 1949 while the third, constructed in the 1980s, has become defunct.
Metro water officials say they have been unable to make any improvements to the pipeline due to the encroachments on the road above. “For the past four years, we have been calling tenders to carry out improvement works. But no one is keen as they will have to remove the illegal buildings. We do not know how long the pipeline will survive,” said a source.
Commercial establishments, huts, places of worship and plant nurseries have been set up on both the pipelines. “Only if the area is free can we check the pipelines and ensure uninterrupted supply to the city. But every time we try to remove them, some politician gets involved,” said a source.
The encroachers have even started asking for electricity connection. “If the conduit collapses it will be a catastrophe. The police are also helpless as most of them are affiliated to some political party or the other. On other occasions, they get a stay from a court on the eviction,” said a Metrowater official.
The CMWSSB faced a similar problem while evicting 869 families from Kalvai Thurai in Asprin Gardens near the Kilpauk plant in November 2009. “Even now some of them are filing cases against us demanding compensation. We do not have the manpower or resources to remove the intruders,” said a senior official.
Water flows through the 1914 conduit from Red Hills, which is at a higher level, to low-lying Kilpauk just on gravity. Such a structure cannot be constructed again and proper maintenance is a must, say officials.