The Union Territory of Puducherry will implement a Rs 538 crore comprehensive drinking water project with the support of the French development agency, AFD.
Puducherry Chief Minister’s office in a statement on Wednesday said that a meeting to this effect was held between Puducherry Chief Minister, N. Rangasamy, Water resources minister, and French officials at the Government secretariat on Tuesday.
French Consul General of Puducherry, Lise Talbot-Barre, Puducherry Agriculture Minister, Jayakumar, AFD Director, Bruno Bosle, and other senior officials participated in the meeting.
Union Territory of Puducherry had signed an agreement with the AFD in 2017 for a comprehensive drinking water project and the French agency had sanctioned a soft loan for Rs 49 crore a couple of years ago. However, local people opposed laying of borewells for fetching water, fearing groundwater depletion and other side effects.
The contract term of the project with the AFD is to conclude in June 2022 and the Puducherry government had initiated a discussion with the agency for an extension of two more years. However, according to sources in the government, the AFD insisted that the government at least commence a pilot project.
According to sources in the Government of Puducherry, the territory requires 65,000 litres of water per day and the only solution to the problem is the comprehensive drinking water project. The water department has also decided to sink 40 borewells on the beds of Penniyar and Malatar rivers as also in the Guduviyar tank but objections were raised to this as well.
Sources in the department told IANS that the government will conduct a detailed door-to-door campaign on the necessity of the borewells and convince people there were no environmental hazards associated with the digging of borewells in river beds.
The Chief Minister himself, according to sources, will campaign on behalf of the project as it has become indispensable for the government to provide drinking water to a majority of urban residents of the territory.
Sources in the department said that three pilot projects would be implemented before June 2022 to convince the AFD that the government is on the job. After the commencement of the pilot project, only the French agency would consider any extension for the project as well as extra funding.
The Puducherry water resources department will be conducting a detailed study on the depth of the groundwater, and the quantum of water available before the pilot project is implemented.