Chennai’s water supply cut in half as city battles worst drought in 140 years

Chennai is facing severe crisis of drinking water as all four lakes around the city have dried up, the local authorities have said. Tamil Nadu is witnessing the worst drought in 140 years. The city requires 830 million litres of water a day, but the supply has halved over the last few days, say water supply officials.

There is no daily supply of drinking water in Chennai as the four main reservoirs — Poondi, Red Hills, Cholavaram and Chembarambakkam are dry.

In many areas, piped water is being supplied only once in three days. The authorities have deployed 300 water tankers in the city.

The Veeranam lake in Neyveli, a town more than 200 km away, from where Chennai receives supply through a huge pipeline is dry too. The authorities, however, are tapping other resources in the area to pump 90 million litres a day to Chennai through the same pipeline.

“Water is also coming in from stone quarries in Kancheeputam and Thiruvallur, besides two desalination plants in the city,” a senior water supply official said.

The groundwater in Chennai and its surrounding areas is replenished by five lakes — Puzhal, Sholavaram, Kaliveli, Pulicat and Maduranthakam — all located within a 60-km radius of the city. In 2015, the lakes had overflowed due to unseasonal rains, causing devastating floods in Chennai.

Besides, there are thousands of water bodies in Chennai and its neighbouring districts. Green activists say had these water bodies been properly maintained, Chennai would never have suffered from water crisis. They blame rapid urbanization for the lack of upkeep of these water bodies.

Parallels to the droughts in 2003, considered to be the worst in the recent years, have been drawn. Notably, rain harvesting was made a norm then to manage the crisis.


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