TN govt takes best efforts to address water crisis

Chennai: The IPL final is over and the city which had been chanting ‘Watson Watson’ is now clamoring ‘water water’. The four reservoirs that supply to Chennai have run dry and we are staring at an acute water crisis.

According to data from the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply & Sewerage Board (CMWSSB), the combined total storage of Poondi, Chembarambakkam, Sholavaram, and Red Hills reservoirs that supply to the city, has fallen to 175 mcft out of a full capacity of 11257 mcft. The combined total storage at these four reservoirs for the same period last year was 3,194 mcft.

Metrowater situation
Sources said the CMWSSB will stop withdrawing from the Red Hills lake by today or tomorrow. It used to supply the city 90 to 120 million litres of water a day. Reportedly the city will also stop getting water from Poondi reservoir and Sholavaram lake by June.

In some areas like T Nagar, Vadapalani and Adyar where residents have been getting water every alternate day, the supply has been cut to twice a week. A few areas also reported that the duration of supply has reduced to just 30 minutes per day. But Metrowater says at least 450-500 million litres per day (MLD) is being supplied to the city (as opposed to the required 900 MLD).

A Metrowater official said, “The city had faced worse situations in 2008 and 2014 and bounced back. Today the situation is better. To offset the shortfall, we will tap 180 million litres a day from Veeranam lake. We are already drawing 15 MLD a day from 300 wells on agricultural land leased in Tiruvallur, Tamarapakkam and Minjur.”

“We have also hired extra tankers that would make at least 2,000 trips more per day. Right now, there are 800 lorries doing about 8,400 trips a day,” he added. Also, it is learnt supply will either be cut or reduced to IT companies and residential colonies along OMR.

Where is water?
Though Metrowater is trying to do its best, illegal connections, fleecing by tanker lorry drivers and local officials have created a situation where tax-paying citizens are not getting their fair share of water.

Since January the Metrowater department has disconnected 150 water connections for using illegal means to obtain water. The major illegality was the use of motors and pumps to draw water from common main pipelines. On Tuesday alone, two connections – one at Thiru Vi Ka Nagar and another in Anna Nagar – were disconnected, an official said.

Just in the last few days, five tanker trucks on contract with Chennai Metrowater have been penalised for selling water, meant for free supply, to private apartment complexes in Adyar, Thiru-vi-Ka Nagar, Anna Nagar and Royapuram. This is just what has been discovered and many continue to do it undetected.

Groundwater situation bleak
A recent NITI Aayog report stated that 21 Indian cities, including Chennai, will run out of groundwater by 2020 and the latest April month groundwater report for Tamilnadu by the PWD indicates it too.

According to the report, out of 31 districts in which the PWD has observation wells, 19 districts in Tamilnadu has seen a fall of groundwater table compared to April last year. At least seven districts, Tiruvallur, Vellore, Dharmapuri, Tiruvarur, Perambalur, Ariyalur and Sivaganga saw the table reaching a new low in this decade.

The drastic reduction has been reported in Perambalur (5.5m), besides Tiruvannamalai (4.55m), Vellore (3.27m) and Dharmapuri (3.13m) in northern belt, according to monthly assessment by state ground and surface water resources data centre

Crackdown on cans
Water scarcity has also affected the quality of drinking water and even the ones supplied in cans are now unreliable.

The food safety department has raided three places this morning and seized 531 cans for various quality issues. An official said, “The raids were conducted near Koyambedu Metro station, Retteri Kolathur signal and Velacheri.”

“We found that the cans were soiled, had no expiry and manufacturing date and some even had no labels at all. A lot of water cans were also misbranded, raising a question as to their place of origin. Customers should buy cans that have labels from certified companies,” he added.

The department is preparing a consolidated report on illegal water can supply in Chennai. This is the second such raid this month in the city. In the first search conducted 8 May, 689 cans from 39 vehicles were seized. The cans were found to be originating from illegal units in Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram. Every day, more than 1000 vehicles enter the city carrying water cans.


A Harsha Vardhan