Top
Millennium Post

Blue gold crisis

Blue gold crisis

As India's sixth largest city reels under a dystopian outlook of water scarcity to alarming levels, a delayed monsoon only makes matters worse. Satellite imagery affirmed what people of Chennai have been experiencing on the ground – unprecedented water shortage. Facts show the real picture and going by that, Chennai's all four major reservoirs that supply drinking water have dipped far below and not hold even a per cent of their capacity. The city has to rely on the three mega desalination plants that are working overtime to match just the minimum requirements. The frequency and quantity of the water supply have gravely dipped. Further, the local farm wells have been plundered to source the private tankers that supplied water to the government-initiated IT Corridor that gave no second thought to water supply in the first place. The water tanker business flourished to fill this civil gap, depleting farm wells to ensure supply to the IT Corridor which proliferated to comprise more than 150 mega infrastructures and remains a source of employability to around 3 lakh people. Too many wells have been dug up which has drained groundwater levels. Introspection over how Chennai and its peripheral districts Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, which once were blessed with more than 6,000 lakes, ponds and reservoirs that kept recharging the groundwater table, lost nearly half of the natural sources of water while the remaining ones lie in bad shape. Housing projects promoted by governments, converting water bodies into residential areas to house the rising population, proliferated the disappearance of natural bodies. Topographically, Chennai has clayey soil – making water very saline – which makes borewells redundant. Deeper borewells are also futile since they yield unsuitable water. Water at deeper levels is more synchronised with soil which mixes with the properties of water and ends up being unsuitable for use. There already has been a violation of government rules which prohibit digging private wells in close proximity to sea since the sea water seeps in the groundwater channel making the latter highly saline. Rainfall last year was not sufficient to replenish the reservoirs and it is delayed this year. A double-whammy effect of rainfall has brought upon apprehensions of a Zero City as Chennai faces its worst water crisis in years. While monsoon is desperately awaited, the necessity of long-term solutions screams at Chennai. The government has to step up and plan wisely or Chennai, with its current population, could face a nightmare since the scarcity of something as essential as water beyond survival needs would trigger a series of catastrophic ramifications. While Centre's intervention will be the last resort, the state has to stand up and manage the crisis that it also has a role in. The rainwater harvesting drive that hit the city back in the early 2000s gave Chennai a reliable option should water crisis hit one day. But sadly, the poor implementation did not yield as much. Also, less rainfall has caught people off-guard. Experts cite that Chennai geologically also does not have ample groundwater which makes the city turn its attention to other alternatives. Rainwater harvesting is a good support system for water supply but it is rainfall-dependent. Desalination plants are cost-intensive. Lacuane in policy, violation of norms, low rainfall, scorching heat and over-utilisation of groundwater has stressed the water table bringing the mighty city of south India to its knees. No one even speaks about Kosathalaiyar, Cooum and Adyar – the three rivers of Chennai that have become drains crisscrossing the city. There is a Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust with a website as well but sums up its performances pretty much like the Yamuna River Project which overlooks restoration of the famous river of the national capital.

Rejuvenation of the natural reservoirs and water management remain the top priority as Chennai as the expected rainfall will calm the situation down to some extent. Monsoon has to be utilised to make the most of rainwater and develop policies that will enable Chennai to sustain peak summers without a repeat of today's crisis. While Chennai battles its water crisis, other cities have to take a note of water management as key to ensuring perennial supply to feed their fast-proliferating boundaries. We need river rejuvenation, water table management, water management at individual level along with technology to aid us in our effort to maintain this blue gold forever because it is that one thing humans just cannot afford to lose.

Next Story
Share it