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HC stays water treatment unit set-up in Karaikal

Our Legal Correspondent

CHENNAI, May 19

IMPLEMENTATION of a water treatment plant conceived to meet the acute drinking water shortage in Karaikal in the Union Territory of Pondicherry has been stopped by the Madras High Court on the ground that a similar project established at a cost of Rs 1.5 crore in the region in 2000 proved to be a ``failure''.

A Division Bench comprising Mr Justice R. Jayasimha Babu and Mr Justice P.K. Misra, which heard a writ petition filed by a local resident challenging the decision of the Government of the Union Territory to put up a water treatment plant for Neravy Commune Panchayat on the Tirumalai Rajanar river, just 3 km away from the earlier plant, directed that the work on the water treatment plant shall not proceed ``as the whole point in the petition is the alleged wasteful expenditure of public funds on a project even after knowing that a similar project has already failed''.

According to the petitioner, Mr P. Thangaraj, when the people of T.R. Pattinam were agitating over the failure of the water treatment plant put up in 2000, the respondents (Chief Secretary, Chief Engineer (I & P H) Division, and Executive Engineer (I & PH) wanted to go ahead with the idea of putting up another treatment plant. He contended that installation of such a plant, far from helping the people in the villages, only helped vested interests.

When an announcement was made about the proposal to have another water treatment plant on the same river, the people of Neravy Commune protested against the gross misuse of resources, the petitioner said. Though the work on the project was to have commenced on March 10, 2002, nothing was done due to the public resentment.

Actually, the petitioner said, the people of the Neravy Commune had been demanding just putting up 10 wells on the Tirumalai Rajanar river bed at Manaampettai on the lines of the French system which had stood the test of time at Agalangkan. The people of Tirunallar and Karaikal were getting supply of potable water round the year, and there was no question of incurring heavy cost on putting up the proposed water treatment plant which at best could supply water only for three months and that too only if water was available for the treatment plant.

The petitioner said that he represented the matter to the Union Territory's Chief Minister, who asked the Chief Engineer, Irrigation, to study the water system conceived in Agalangkan and adopt it for Neravy. But contrary to the assurance given by the authorities, the respondents were busy implementing the Neravy water treatment plant.

For the Tirunallar Commune, the petitioner pointed out, even during the French regime, 20 wells were dug on the Arasalar riverbed that met the water requirements of the entire people of Karaikal and Tirunallar. Another 14 wells were dug to supply water to the 70,000 people. The system of operation of the water supply was simple. By sheer gravitation, water flows through pipes into a huge well from where water is pumped to supply to the people. By adopting this system, the water problem of the two towns could have been solved easily. Investing huge cost on installing a water treatment plant for the towns was absolutely unnecessary. Besides, the earlier treatment plant had failed miserably.

The petitioner prayed for issue of a direction to the respondents not to go ahead with the water treatment plant along Tirumalai Rajanar river, and instead put up wells on the river bed at Manaampettai as was done at Agalangkan.

The Bench directed the Government Pleader (Pondicherry) to take notice. He sought time to file counter. The Bench directed that in the meantime, work on the water treatment plant should not proceed.

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