Water Crisis Leaves Chennai Dry, at the Mercy of Tankers
Drive down Teynampet in Chennai and you will notice long line of colourful pots and drums lined up in anticipation for water. In West Mambalam, residents wait with bated breath for 20 minutes of water supply every day to fill up as many buckets as possible. Monthly expenses have become hefty with the cost of water eating into budgets.
The water crisis is quite real in Chennai, and in most parts of Tamil Nadu.
Chennai Metro Water, which supplies drinking water, has cut piped supply by 40 percent.
The city needs 880 million litres of water (mld) per day, but the supply has now come down to 525 mld.
Water, Water Nowhere
Chennai’s largest source of drinking water, Chembarambakkam lake, which has a 3,500 million cubic feet capacity, is completely dry now. This was the same lake that flooded Chennai in December 2015.
The other two reservoirs – Poondi and Red Hills – have also completely dried up, thus cutting down piped water supply.
Now residents are completely dependant on private water tankers. Areas in Poonamallee taluk in Tiruvallur district, Chengalpet in Kancheepuram district and Old Mahabalipuram Road, Iyyappanthangal and the IT corridor are some of the worst hit.
Deficit rainfall during the 2017 Northeast monsoon and in 2018 has depleted the groundwater levels, thus drying up water bodies.
Crisis Drives a Hole Through the Pocket
Nearly 880 lorries of Metro Water are making over 9,000 trips in a day out of which 6,500 are for the slums, reported The New Indian Express.
At least the city receives water from the civic agency to some extent. Things are worse for those living in the IT corridor and beyond, which doesn’t fall under the city limits. The residents pay for water tankers everyday, spending Rs 1,500-3,500 every month. They have also accused the government of not supplying Metro Water.
Many farmers in Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts have also been hit, having no water to irrigate the fields. With water bodies dried up, many people complained that they couldn’t even go fishing, leaving them with no means to earn. Many are struggling to get enough water to feed cattle and other livestock.
Need of the Hour
People in villages in and around Chennai have begun to protest against private tankers. Many residents have alleged that the need of the hour is for the government to streamline the activity. There is no fixed limit on how much water private tankers draw from wells and also how much they charge the residents.
According to a central groundwater board report in 2017, all 20 blocks of Chennai district, four blocks of Kancheepuram district, 12 blocks of Tiruvallur district and two blocks in Vellore district fall under ‘overexploited’ category, reported The New Indian Express.
The government is expected to pass an order by July for the state to regulate the extraction of water, said the media report. “Plan to set up two desalination plants –capacity of 150 million litres of water per day (mld) and 400 mld – is in the pipeline,” said an official to Business Standard.
This crisis should serve as a wake-up call for the government to formulate ways to increase water storage by building reservoirs and desalination plants.