Like many suburban areas of Chennai, Chitlapakkam has seen tremendous growth but the civic amenities and services have failed to keep up with the needs of the people. Residents of the area have banded together to fight for their rights and ensure that they are able to enjoy a better quality of life.
It is because of the spirit of the residents that the connectivity in the area has improved in recent times. Our campaign has brought back the S3 minibus to Chitlapakkam, along with the introduction of another minibus, the S100.
Buoyed by this success, residents have begun to take on other persistent issues in Chitlapakkam and have made inroads. The most recent victory for the residents has been the provision of piped water supply to households after two decades of demands.
History of water supply in Chitlapakkam
When Chitlapakkam was a village panchayat it was included in the Palar water scheme of Tambaram during the 1980s. The panchayat set up water taps on the streets to enable residents to get drinking water.
When my family settled down in Chitlapakkam in 1987, I recall fetching three to four pots of water from the nearby tap on the street for household use.
After the construction of an overhead tank in Chitlapakkam water connections were given to residents by laying pipes in the streets during the late 1990s. Palar water was stored in the overhead tank and distributed to various localities. During this time, the house I resided in also got piped water connection in 1995.
However, as Chitlapakkam grew and more people settled down in the area, piped water connections for their homes became a rarity.
The Muthulakshmi Nagar Welfare Association, formed in Chitlapakkam in 1990, has been consistently raising the demand for house water connections after the upgradation of Chitlapakkam as Town Panchayat.
Between 2000 and 2010 the population of Chitlapakkam grew manifold, with many large apartment complexes and gated communities coming up in the area. However, not all of them have been able to access piped water supply in all these years.
In 2018 we experienced drought. There was a shortage of water for daily use in households and residents were forced to rely on tankers.
New schemes for water supply in Chitlapakkam
The state government approved the Madambakkam-Chitlapakkam Integrated Water Supply Scheme for the benefit of Madambakkam and Chitlapakkam residents. The Madambakkam water was brought to the newly built water tank in Babu Street and then it was taken through pipes to Chitlapakkam Tank. From here, using the existing pipe lines water is distributed to the residents.
Once this scheme was in place, we renewed our plea for household piped water connection to all residents. A petition was lodged with the Chief Minister’s Cell, with all residents undertaking to share the available quantity of water.
The petition was approved and in January 2021, the Tamil Nadu Government approved the provision of about 3500 household piped water connections in Chitlapakkam. Applications to avail the connection were made available to the residents. Residents looking to secure piped water were to pay a deposit of Rs 10,000. A total of 850 connections were applied for as soon as the applications were opened.
Delay in setting up piped water connections in Chitlapakkam
Around this time, the Tamil Nadu assembly elections were announced. No progress was made on the setting up of new piped water connections till June 2021.
When the town panchayat eventually began the process, the creation of the Tambaram Corporation took place, stalling progress on water supply.
However, to the relief of the residents, Chitlapakkam was also made part of the newly formed Tambaram Corporation.
Not wanting to give up on the issue of securing water supply, residents met the Tambaram Commissioner in December 2021 to raise the issue. The provision of water connections to those who paid Rs 10,000 was insisted upon. We were assured by the Commissioner that the connections will be provided.
Despite this, there was no action taken on the issue. The reason cited was the local body elections that had been due in a few months.
Piped water supply works underway
In May 2022, with the local body elections held, we finally had elected representatives to raise this concern. On meeting the Chairman of our zone, we were informed that there were new charges to be computed after the upgradation of Chitlapakkam from Town Panchayat and its merger with the Tambaram Corporation.
We followed up on the issue in September 2022 and in January 2023. In April 2023, there were first signs of piped water supply to many households as they were given a demand note. For around 250 of the 850 residents who had applied and paid centage charges, work order to create piped water lines was issued by the chairman of zone 3 in the presence of the ward member a few days ago. The residents are to execute the work by engaging their own contractors.
Thus, after persistent efforts by the residents for nearly two decades, the issue of piped water supply to households looks to be a reality.
Residents also have a larger slate of suggestions for improving water supply in the area and would like to take up these issues next.
Residents’ collectives have suggested that connections to apartment complexes must be given based on the number of flats.
To augment the regular water supply to at least once in two days, the water source must be increased. For this, we have suggested including Chitlapakkam in the CMWSSB’s Pallavaram-Pammal-Pozhichalur water scheme.
We have also submitted an online petition to the Chief Minister to include Chitlapakkam in the 150MLD desalination water supply scheme which is to supply water to Tambaram and Pallavaram and this suggestion has been accepted by the government
Despite the decades-long delay, residents have found renewed hope that their concerns will be heard and acted upon by the elected representatives with the arrival of the new piped water connections to Chitlapakkam.