Is Chennai On Its Path To Day Zero?
The scorching summer heat and water scarcity is the worst combination humans can face. Currently, Chennai is facing its worst water crisis in decades and it is far from any resolution. From posh societies to the resettlement colonies, all are dependent on private water tankers or metro water. The groundwater levels have depleted majorly. In fact, residents who are out of the city are postponing their return after a holiday or shifting their homes from one part of the city to another, in the hope of getting better water supply.
What has caused the water crisis in Chennai
What is being cited as a major reason behind this crisis, is the deficit rainfall in 2017 and a failed monsoon in 2018, which has resulted in the depletion of the ground water. The state government has already declared around 17 districts including Chennai and Kancheepuram, drought-hit. Also, the drying up of major waterbodies is another concern for the city as now, they are at the mercy of private water tanker operators that have hiked the rates up to Rs 5000 per truck load of water.
Maheendranath Swamy, a member of residential association says, “We are depending on private tankers for supply as the government metro water tankers are taking two to three weeks to deliver.”
Chennai residents are also blaming poor government policies behind this situation. According to V Venkat Iyer, one of the local residents and environmental activist, there are at least 20 water bodies that could have been easily maintained but the government took no charge of it. These water bodies were used for throwing garbage and construction waste. Many of these have also been encroached. According to an official estimate, there are 3,000 small and large water bodies.
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A senior official working with Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) that supplies water to the city, told PTI that compared to other metropolitan cities Chennai is in a disadvantaged location because of the lack of any perennial rivers. At present, the city is being supplied water from two desalination plants which have the capacity of 100 million litres of water per day. According to the official, two more plants with a capacity of 150 mld per day will be installed soon.
Activist LN Maikandan says, “The situation is worst in resettlement colonies where almost 23,000 households are wholly dependent on hand-pumps through which water is supplied once in 10 days.”
How is Tamil Nadu dealing with the water crises
To tackle the severe water scarcity in the state, the Tamil Nadu government has sanctioned Rs 233 crores recently, which will be utilised for getting water projects ready. The government has given an order to bring water from the Retteri, Ayanambakkam and Perubakkam tanks and also send water to the taps from the 126 borewells located in the city’s peripheral areas.
Officials are hopeful that Chennai will start receiving southwest monsoon showers June onwards, which should improve the situation. The city receives an average rainfall of 1,400 mm and at least 21,000 million cubic foot of rainwater, can be saved through proper harvesting channels.
Lessons to be learnt from the ongoing water crisis
According to a new report by NITI Aayog, 21 Indian cities will run out of groundwater by 2020. These cities include, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, affecting 100 million people. 40 per cent of the Indian population will have no access to drinking water by 2030. While the situation is unavoidable, the water crisis can be delayed by following these steps:
- Better infrastructure is provided by states for rainwater harvesting.
- Sustainable on-farm water use practices are adopted which can recharge the groundwater levels.
- Energy efficient desalination plants are developed.
- More emphasis is placed on recycling waste water on a micro level.
- Existing water bodies are rejuvenated and garbage and sewage disposition and encroachment are prevented.