Graphic shows Chennai and other cities threatened with water poverty.


India’s ongoing water crisis

By Duncan Mil

July 16, 2019 - India’s sixth largest city, Chennai, is in crisis after its reservoirs and rivers ran dry. As many as 20 other conurbations face running out of groundwater by next year, affecting 100 million people.

Rains in 2015 inundated the growing metropolis and capital of Tamil Nadu state, but this summer Chennai’s eight million residents have watched their reservoirs run dry.

Storage levels at its four reservoirs -- Red Hills, Poondi, Cholavaram and Chembarambakkam -- stands at 1.6 million cubic metres, less than one per cent of total capacity.

Water levels in 50 of India’s main reservoirs had plummeted to 20% of their capacity by July 11, according to the Central Water Commission.

Across India, the groundwater, that provides an invaluable buffer between monsoons, is severely depleted and in danger of being irreversibly lost. According to Niti Aayog, a government think tank, 21 cities, including Delhi, India’s IT hub of Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, will reach zero groundwater levels by 2020.

Niti Aayog estimates that 12 per cent of India’s population is already living under this “Day Zero” scenario -- with water resources unable to meet demand.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised piped water for all citizens by 2024 and in May formed a new Jal Shakti ministry to tackle water issues.

Meanwhile, a train service aims to deliver 10 million litres of water daily to Chennai from a dam located about 360 kilometres (224 miles) away in Jolarpettai.

PUBLISHED: 16/07/2019; STORY: Graphic News
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