From the Viewsroom

Everyone loves a water crisis

M. Ramesh | Updated on: Mar 14, 2019
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Chennai’s water woes are a creation of vested interests

Even if the 9.8 million residents of Chennai settle for the bare minimum, the city needs 830 million litres of water a day. But thanks to monsoon failures, there is just not enough to go around.

As of February, the water supply department could manage to scrounge 550 million litres per day (mld), just 170 mld of which came from the city’s reservoirs. Another 200 mld came from the two desalination plants — the third has been stuck in the tendering process for, hold your breath, five years! About 180 mld more flowed through pipes from the distant Veeranam lake. In 2015, the South African city of Cape Town, which has half the population as Chennai’s, came perilously close to going completely dry. Will Chennai beat Cape Town to the dubious distinction?

As if the spectre of the city going dry rose suddenly, the department concerned said last October that it was “exploring new sources for augmenting the city’s water supply”. The options included rejuvenating lakes in and around Chennai and tapping rain water stored in abandoned quarries. Accordingly, the department, showing great pluck and agility, successfully identified 13 lakes and six quarries. The problem is, none of these will wet the parched throats this summer. Incidentally, several dead lakes have been rehabilitated by CSR initiatives — these could have provided relief if only the rains had come. Rampant ‘legalised’ construction on the lake beds by unscrupulous industrialists, with the connivance of politicians, have caused the problem. Politicians have personal stakes in the trucked water supply business, which thrives in conditions of scarcity

For the deep-pocketed, there is always a way out. For example, you can produce water from air, provided you are prepared to pay ₹25 a litre. You can buy an RO plant and extract something drinkable from hard water. But commoners will have to do with the ‘comforting’ thought that they need to wait only 10 years, when waters from the Godavari would flow to the city in steel pipes.

Published on March 14, 2019

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