Water extremes in Chennai: from floods to drought

A really sad state of affairs in Chennai on water. The city faced a serious flood two years back and is now facing a drought.

The heat is already making Chennai residents wilt. “It is only April, imagine how bad May and June are going to be,” says K Perumal, manager at a restaurant in south Chennai. At home he is already facing water shortages. “We buy cans for drinking and cooking, but for bathing and washing clothes we get supply only once in three days. We have two schoolgoing children. What on earth do we do for water?”

That’s a question haunting the one crore denizens of the city, which daily requires about 1,200 million litres of water. Of the four reservoirs — Poondi, Chembarambakkam, Cholavaram and Red Hills — supplying the city, the Cholavaram is completely dry and the rest have only around 10 per cent or less of their storage capacity.

After the deluge in December 2015, groundwater levels in Chennai rose by two metres to touch 10.5 metres, according to the Chennai Metrowater Board. Poor rains (62 per cent deficit) the following year pushed people across the State to tap groundwater for their daily needs. The levels fell one to three metres in and around Chennai this year. Private tankers are in demand as government supply has failed in many parts of the city. These tankers illegally draw excessive groundwater, and this is threatening to worsen an already distressing situation.

The decades-old court battles with neighbouring States for water supply from shared rivers offer no hope of succour this time around — Karnataka, too, is facing drought, as is Kerala. In January, the then chief minister O Panneerselvam requested his Andhra Pradesh counterpart, Chandrababu Naidu, to release more water from the Telugu Ganga project. Naidu agreed and 2.5 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water arrived from the neighbouring State. Now that too has trickled away.

Chennai is not alone here. This situation of drought is common across so many cities in India. Even floods are becoming so common across cities. Cities like Bangalore drown in just few hours of rain.

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2 Responses to “Water extremes in Chennai: from floods to drought”

  1. vikramml Says:

    Malthus will find redemption in India.

  2. Murali Says:

    When I was a kid there was a canal, Telugu gangs opened with fanfare. Is it functional?

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