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No rain, no water in reservoirs and depleted ground water levels: Chennai is facing its worst water crisis in years

Chennai is one among the 21 cities in India, which according to a NITI Aayog report, would run out of groundwater by 2020.

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For several weeks now, the city of Chennai has been reeling under an acute water shortage after four major reservoirs have completely dried up. The reservoirs have only about 31 million cubic feet of water as against a total capacity of 11,257 million cubic feet.

The Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) is now looking for alternative sources of water, including desalination plants. Citizens have been completely dependant on the tankers to supply water.

The lakes have a dried up as a result of poor monsoon last year, a 62% shortfall compared to 2017. As per a report, Chennai had a continuous streak of 191 days without rain, breaking a 10-year record. Tamil Nadu receives its highest rainfall during the north-east monsoon which occurs in October-November. Below are the satellite images comparing the current state of reservoirs in the city with images taken a year ago.

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As per reports, IT companies on OMR have asked employees to work for from due to the water shortage. Sources say that 5,000 techies of 12 companies have been directed to work from home. Companies such as Fiat Chrysler, TCS, Wipro and Cognizant have asked employees to cut back on water usage in canteens and restrooms. Around 100 hotels in the city have shut down their operations owing to the water shortage.

The government has been facing difficulty to supply water to schools, following which several drastic steps were taken by the school management. A school had reportedly sent text messages to parents instructing them to send their children with bottles of water. Several schools have also had taken steps to limit the number of children attending school, including announcing holidays for junior grades and holding a half-day session.

At one point, Chennai had an abundance of water resources. A report of The Hindu talks about the numerous lakes of the city that have been vanishing over a period of time. The state government only recently has taken up the issue of rainwater harvesting in a serious manner.

The Madras High Court has slammed the AIADMK led Tamil Nadu government for not taking adequate measures to prevent the water crisis. The HC observed that despite having the knowledge of poor monsoons, the government hasn’t taken any steps to address water shortage concerns. The government has been directed to submit a state-wide comprehensive report on the number of reservoirs in the state, steps taken for desilting, amount sanctioned, and status of those works.

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami attempts to downplay the water crisis in the state by claiming that the news is being exaggerated by the media. He said, “If there is a water shortage in one place, the media friends blow it up as a big thing. I request you all to not blow it up and show as if the entire Tamil Nadu is reeling under water crisis”.

The CM assured that steps are being taken to ensure that drinking water is supplied through lorries wherever there is a shortage. He said that the situation is likely to remain the same till the northeast monsoons hits October-November. This is the only time that the city receives adequate rainfall after which the city has to rely on groundwater. However, this time even groundwater resources are severely depleted.

Meanwhile, the DMK has called for a protest on June 22 across Tamil Nadu demanding the AIADMK government to take urgent steps to address the acute water crisis. They attributed the crisis to the government’s negligence and administrative failure.

The AIADMK has asked not to politicize the issue saying that they were trying their best to address all concerns.

The Tamil Nadu government is contemplating to deploy tanker trains to bring water from other districts of the state to address Chennai’s water crisis. Currently, the CMWSSB is able to provide only 500 MLD per day, whereas the city requires 800 MLD of water per day.

Chennai is one among the 21 cities in India, which according to a NITI Aayog report, would run out of groundwater by 2020. Other cities including Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad would be running out of groundwater impacting the lives of 100 million people.

In what may come as a relief for the residents of the city, the Met department has said that parts of the city may experience rainfall in 2-3 days. The rains, however, would not be sufficient enough to recharge the groundwater levels.

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