Chennai industries, IT firms face closure due to water shortage

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on October 17, 2018

Of the 9.6 million barrels per day, 3.2 million bpd of demand growth will come from petrochemicals, says the IEA   -  AP

Hit by private water tankers’ strike following HC order banning groundwater exploitation

A strike by operators of private water tankers threatens to leave Chennai high and dry.

Industries in North Madras, IT companies in the South and pockets of residences in between are bracing for water shortages, given that they depend on private tanker supply, and no resolution is in sight to resolve the strike that began on October 15.

About a dozen chemical manufacturing units at Manali in North Chennai face closure as water supply stopped on Monday following a recent order of the Madras High Court prohibiting groundwater exploitation.

“With water tankers not plying in Manali, supplies to most of the industries in this area face the threat of closure,” said S Ilanahai, President, Chemical Industries Association, and Managing Director of Cetex Petrochemicals Ltd.

“Due to the water tankers’ strike, we are forced to shut our unit tonight,” Ilanahai told BusinessLine.

Manali is a major petrochemical zone, with nearly 10 major units, including Cetex, Manali Petrochemical, Tamil Nadu Petrochemical and Kothari Petrochemical, and 10 other small units. Totally, about 10,000 employees - direct and indirect - work in these units.

Ilanahai said the units consume about 10,000 kilolitres of water a day. Metrowater is the primary source, but it supplies only 10-20 per cent of the industries’ needs; the rest is sourced from private tankers. “At this rate, the water storage will last just two or three days. If the supply does not resume, about a dozen more units will be forced to shut down. Because the plants handle chemicals, they need water for safety of operations,” he said.

The water shortage also threatens to affect other sectors, including hospitality and retail. Many malls in the city are struggling to stay open. Some downed their shutters on Wednesday. Chennai’s famed IT corridor, which houses top companies such as TCS, Infosys, Cognizant and Wipro, depends almost entirely on tanker supply. Their operations could also wind down if alternative arrangements are not made soon.

No breakthrough in talks

Representatives of private tanker owners held talks with the Tamil Nadu government but no breakthrough was achieved. Even as the government promised a quick solution, truckers announced a continuation of the strike.

Published on October 17, 2018

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