Every day, a 50-wagon train chugs from Jolarpet in Vellore to Chennai 215 km away, carrying that precious commodity — water.
It is a laborious process. It takes nearly four hours to load 2.5 million litres of water on the train, another four hours for the journey, and four more hours to offload the water at the depot near Villivakkam railway station, where it is pumped to Kilpauk Water Works. That’s a 12-hour ride.
An official of the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board explains how around 5 million litres of Cauvery water is sourced from Mettur Dam and sent through a pipeline to Mettusakkarakuppam village, into an underground tank especially built for the purpose. The pipeline is part of the old Cauvery-Vellore Combined Water Supply Scheme.
From the tank, the water is sent via a new 3.2 km pipeline to Parsampet village (near Jolarpet) where the source valves are located. Here, it is loaded on the train.
A Southern Railway official says the train has two engines, one in the front pulling it and the other in the rear pushing it, for extra speed and to avoid any delays in the turnaround time. Each wagon can carry 50,000 litres of water. A second rake will soon bring in the remaining 2.5 million litres, officials say.
Text by R. Srikanth T. Madhavan