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Dearer than gold

Dearer than gold

As many scurried to government tankers to collect their share of those priceless droplets, others who could not join the winding queue cried in chorus. Chennai is facing a severe water shortage as the southern city becomes the latest in India to be caught up in a nationwide crisis. Photographs of rows of women with plastic buckets have emerged waiting for the tankers. IT firms have asked their employees to work from home, several restaurants have shut down, the realty sector is struggling without water and even clashes have been reported from some parts of the state. Satellite images reveal the stark shrinking of one of the main rain-fed reservoirs that serve Chennai. In an image taken by satellite on June 15 last year, the city's largest reservoir, Lake Puzhal, resembles a dark blue patch amid a densely crowded cityscape. In another, taken exactly a year later, the lake is a small grey fraction of its earlier self. One of the city's other important reservoirs, the smaller Chembarambakkam Lake, is also running dry. All four reservoirs serving the city had mostly dried up as of last month, with storage only about one-hundredth of the levels recorded by the same time the previous year. Recently, during a short duration debate in the Upper House on water crisis, CPI(M)'s T K Rangarajan said Chennai is the first Indian city "to have gone dry" with the Central Water Commission reporting a rainfall deficit of 41 per cent in Tamil Nadu till June 13 this year. "Most of the Chennai population today depends on water tankers, municipal supply and private supply for drinking water. A tank of private water costs more than one gram of gold. Now gold is cheaper in Chennai than water. This is the truth," he stated. The southern city's water crisis has drawn international attention. Oscar-winning Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio, known for his environmental activism, has raised awareness about the ongoing water crisis in Chennai. The 44-year-old actor, who is one of the most vocal environmentalists in Hollywood, shared a post on Instagram with the title: "Only rain can save Chennai from this situation". Experts opine that last year's failed monsoon, shoddy desilting and large-scale concretisation along with the indiscriminate sinking of bore wells have reduced the re-charging of groundwater and resulted in the water table touching new lows. Many feel it is time for the state government to revive rainwater harvesting programmes that were mandatory in the early 2000s. Still, others believe that it is time for the Centre to initiate the interlinking of rivers, keeping in mind the growing water crisis throughout the country.

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