- Worst drought in 140 years in Tamil Nadu
- Piped water in many areas supplied only once every 3 days
- Residents hire private tankers which hike rates
Tamil Nadu’s worst drought in 140 years has dried up reservoirs in the region, severely impacting the availability of drinking water in Chennai and other cities. Water supply across Chennai has dropped by half, with the government saying tap water may dwindle to a trickle in the days to come. In many areas, piped water is being supplied only once every three to four days. “We are supplying between 450 to 470 million litres of water every day compared to the normal requirement of 830 million litres,” said Arun Roy of the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewage Board that supplies water across the city.
The government has 7,000 tankers in operation in Chennai. But many people are depending on private water tankers, which are cashing in by doubling their price to Rs 1,500 per tanker.
The kitchen of the Ramakrishnans in the southern part of Chennai is clustered with unwashed dishes. Over the last one month, the family has spent more than Rs 4,000 on tankers. “Each tanker costs 1,400 rupees and the price goes up when there’s a big demand,” said D Ramakrishnan, an entrepreneur.
The four key lakes around Chennai that meet the needs of the city and its suburbs, home to more than eight million people, have gone dry after the failure of monsoon last year.
“This crisis was expected considering that the last monsoons had failed,” said Sekhar Raghavan of Rain Centre, a non-profit that promotes rainwater harvesting in the city. “But the shocker is that there has been no planning to deal with it. De-silting of lakes and reservoirs, and efforts to ensure recharge of groundwater have all been missing,” he said.
Asha Rajan, a resident added, “In 2015, Chennai saw severe floods as all reservoirs overflowed. What have they done to store this?”
Chennai also gets water from government-run desalination plants, which are now working round-the-clock. “We are hoping we will get some rains in July that will help recharge some of the groundwater, failing which, the next few months will be tough,” Mr Roy said.