CHENNAI: Residents of poor localities in the city are all set to get access to safe drinking water. Chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Saturday announced the Amma drinking water scheme (Amma Kudineer Thittam), under which 20 litres of treated water will be provided free of cost daily to families of economically weaker sections. The scheme proposes to in stall reverse osmosis (RO) purifiers at 100 locations in the city . The project was one of the key announcements made in the ruling AIADMK’s electoral manifesto for the 2011 assembly election.

It is aimed at reducing the prevalence of water-borne diseases among economically poorer sections. Officials, however, have not indicated any timeframe for the completion of the plants which will be installed by the Greater Chennai Corporation.

“Initially , the purification units would be installed in 100 identified areas, where poor are predominantly residing,” Jayalalithaa said in a statement. In Chennai, most middle and higher income families use treated water from RO purifiers or buy packaged drinking water from private players despite Metrowater, the government agency , supplying 830 million litres a day through pipelines. Tankers are also used to supply water to extended areas.

The proposed RO plants will have the capacity to treat 2,000 litres an hour and the capacity would be increased further if needed. The quality of water supplied by these plants will be ensured through water testing laboratories. “Under this scheme, smart cards will be given to the families to get water from these plants,” she said.

Greater Tamil Nadu Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers Association president Shakespeare said the drinking water supply scheme will benefit people who have no access to canned water. “It may affect private water manufacturers in the long run,” he said, adding that the one-litre water bottles introduced by the government did not impact private manufacturers too badly.

The leaking sewer lines, and inadequate maintenance of old drinking water pipe network are the major causes for contamination of water in the city. The water is usually contaminated with coliform, cryptosporidium, giardia, legionella, chlorite, asbestos and fluoride, which may lead to gastrointestinal illness and increase the risk of cancer and bone diseases.The Communicable Diseases Hospital in Tondiarpet, the corporation-run facility , continues to receive patients throughout the year, with complaints of water-borne diseases.

In the last 56 months of the AIADMK government, 41 combined water supply schemes worth Rs 7,324.34 crore have been implemented, and another 69 schemes worth Rs 6,602.78 crore are in progress.