Water crisis may leave real estate sector high and dry

CHENNAI: The water crisis is already taking a toll on residents and businesses but one area where it will have a multiplier effect is the construction sector. With water being a primary requirement for building construction, developers are worried over the depleting groundwater table in the city and its impact on ongoing projects. As per the estimates of Jones Lang LaSalle Property, a leading international property consultancy firm, about 55,500 units are under construction in different parts of the Chennai Metropolitan Area, Sriperumpudur, Orgadam, besides Chengalpet and Tiruvallur. Industry sources said builders have already started feeling the pinch of water woes at construction sites as water tankers have jacked up prices. "The cost of one load of water tanker with a capacity of 12,000 litres has in creased from Rs 900 a few months ago to anywhere between Rs 1,200 and Rs 1,500. It may further shoot up in the weeks ahead," said K Chandrasekar, president of Chennai Real Estate Agents Association. The reason behind the jump in water tanker tariff is due to a variety of reasons including escalating demand for water from occupants in apartments and commercial buildings, he notes. Water is used in various stages of construction such as mixing concrete and mortar and curing, besides meeting the requirements of workers. N Nandakumar, former president of Tamil Nadu chapter of Confederation of Real Estate Developers Associations of India (Credai), says around 2,500 litres of water is needed for every square foot of construction till its completion. "The volume (2,500 litres per square feet) is calculated by taking into account the water utilised at every stage of construction from the foundation to handing over the property to buyers and water required for the workforce. The quantity of water is uniform for both commercial and residential projects," he said. Normally, groundwater is extract ed from construction sites. But, developers need to transport water from outside sources, if the quality of groundwater available is not suitable for construction -it may be saline or have high iron content. Under such circumstances, tankers are the only source of quality water for carrying out construction work. Mambakkam on Vandalur-Kelambakkam High Road and Guduvancherry are the few areas near Chennai that serve the water needs of the construction sector. Ramaprabhu, secretary of the Builders' Association of India's southern centre, says 12,000 litres of water is necessary for taking up the curing process in 4,000sqm of construction for about a week. "There are several areas in and around the city where we cannot use the groundwater for construction. Rajiv Gandhi Salai (OMR) is one such stretch and developers in the area have to ferry water from elsewhere," he said. Noting that water sources are fast dipping, he said that housing projects under construction could be delayed. Against the backdrop of builders struggling to market their units despite offering huge discounts, acute water shortage would further discourage them, he added. A Shankar, national director, JLL Property Consultants (India) Pvt Ltd, said the soon-to-come Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act in Tamil Nadu will exacerbate matters."Housing projects must be completed as per schedule and should not be delayed under the act. It is going to be a real challenge for developers in meeting the deadline in the wake of the water shortage," he said.