One the largest cities in India is running out of water because the main reserve is drying up.
Chennai is the home to nearly five million people, who all get their water from the city’s main rain-fed reservoir Lake Puzhal. However, Satellite surveys have shown the lake is only holding a fraction of the water it held this time last year.
Now, all four of Chennai’s primary reserves are running almost dry, meaning four million people are dependent on water that is not of drinking quality, collected from makeshift wells. Meanwhile, the Chennai Metro Water has cut the water it provides by 40 per cent.
According to the Central Water Commission, this year has seen a rainfall deficit of 41 per cent in Tamil Nadu until June 13.
The water shortage first emerged several weeks ago and the Indian government has been criticised for relying on the arrival of the monsoon to solve the problem, rather than taking action. The rain is too unreliable and the monsoon has been late in arriving for several years now.
Millions of people have been left without water as a result, while heatwaves blast the country, killing hundreds of people.
Because of the lack of urban infrastructure in the country, water is not recycled, and rainwater is not collected.
At the beginning of this month, temperatures hit a scorching 50°C in Churu, Rajasthan, which is just below India’s all-time highest temperature, recorded in 2016.
The health ministry issued advice for people in the area amid rising temperatures. Citizens are told to avoid the sun between noon and 3pm and to refrain from drinking tea, coffee and alcohol.
The latest heatwave is part of the trend in the country, with last year being the sixth-warmest year since national record-keeping began in 1901 and 11 of the 15 warmest years on record have all taken place since 2004.
The frequency of heatwaves is increasing, a government minister told India’s parliament earlier this year. Chennai used to provide a water-surplus for metropolitan cities of the country till a couple of decades ago.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.