Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVI No. 23, March 16-31, 2017

No hi-tech answer to thirst?!

(By A Special Correspondent)

What’s the answer to IT thirst?

The newspapers recently were full of how the strike by water tanker operators had brought Old Mahabalipuram Road aka IT Corridor to its knees. The much-vaunted hi-tech area, with offices developing high-end software solutions for companies abroad, is pretty low-tech when it comes to that precious commodity – water. It just needed three days of no supply for the trouble to assume crisis proportions.

The statistics are mind-boggling. The Economic Times has it that three-fourths of Tamil Nadu’s Rs 50,000 crore software exports happen from the IT -corridor. A day’s shutdown would mean a loss of Rs 100 crore. Several Fortune 500 companies depend on this stretch for their IT solutions and some of India’s biggest software names operate from here. And believe it or not, they all depend on tankers for their supply of water! Strange though it may seem, Metrowater does not cover the area and so, the companies, IT Parks and other precincts here are left to their own devices. And these are the most ancient techniques possible – tapping water from wells nearby and getting them supplied by tankers.

This has worked well for almost a decade now. However, the rural wells that hitherto -catered to the needs are now under a lot of stress. Villages are becoming wary of the water -being sucked out and many have lodged protests at the way they are being exploited. In 2014, the Panchayat of Solanur on the OMR filed a petition seeking restrictions on commercial establishments in the vicinity sinking bore wells. These were being drilled to a depth of 400 feet, the complainants said, and were depleting the groundwater in the area quite rapidly. The matter is still sub-judice but it is indicative of what could become a trend.

During the height of the -water tanker strike, with much of the IT corridor left high and dry, representatives of the -software industry met up with the Government and de-mand-ed a solution to their water problems. If the current trend persists, they are of the view that the OMR may -become -untenable by 2021. It is to be -remembered that many of the office and residential complexes in the area are yet to be fully occupied and so, the -demand for water has not yet peaked. The Government, it is understood, has promised to look into the matter – which is the usual  bureaucratese for pigeon-holing.

What the Government has not asked is as to how many of these companies/parks/complexes have water-recycling facilities in place. The chances are that very few, if at all, have thought of such arrangements. Asking the Government for a solution is one thing, working out a sustainable answer is something else altogether. Considering that this is the IT hub, where the world’s most creative people are working, surely the problem can merit some attention and solution. Modern -toilets that consume less water could be a start. Meaningful use of grey water could be another. Achieving zero liquid discharge could be a third. Many sophisticated solutions are now available across the world for minimising the use of water. Certainly, wastage of water is something that hardly any -developed nation indulges in today. The IT Corridor ought to be showing others the way and not demonstrating that it is backward in the extreme.

The current crisis is not the first to hit the IT Corridor by the way. Water shocks have hit the area in 2011 and 2013. These have seen predictable -responses – delegations waiting on Government and an assurance that the matter will be looked into. 2017 promises to be no different. Well, 2021 is not all that far off.

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