Dubai: Water, Water everywhere, nor any drop to drink, the famous lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, holds good for Chennai residents as they seem to be perennially affected by lack of water.
After having lived most of my life in the south Indian city, I am familiar with troubles of the water crisis, that increase during the summer months. The sad truth is nothing has been done to address the issue, on the contrary it has gotten worse.
Yes, Chennai depends heavily on monsoon rains for its needs. While science and technology has developed so much that man has put a Rover on Mars, regular water supply has not reached Chennai from the rivers in the adjoining states, which are only a few hundred kilometres away.
Why is it happening seems to be question on everyone’s mind. The reason mainly is lack of water management and foresight. While the opposition cries over the acute water shortage, the ruling party denies there’s any crisis, and blames it on truant monsoon rains.
The unfortunate truth is these two political entities have been in power for the last four decades and they don’t seem to have done much when in power. The fact is, Chennai was affected by floods that submerged most parts of the city, not once, but twice in 2015 and 2017.
So what are the reasons for the droughts and the floods?
The wetlands have dwindled to almost one third of its original size, due to constructions of a large number of high-rise buildings. A by-product of this shrinking of wetlands is the huge influx of population, which in turn has increased the demand for water.
The major reservoirs that cater to the needs of the city have not undergone maintenance work for many years, and no additional storage facilities have come up. As a result when there’s excess water, these are opened resulting in floods.
To meet the demand, the alternative is to tap into the groundwater, which has now dropped to alarming proportions. People cry foul as factories tap into this resource for commercial use, leaving them high and dry. Transporting this groundwater from one place to is another a big business. As a quick fix, the state government is contemplating to transport water on trains from nearby districts!
For the state, not just Chennai, to survive, integration of rivers is paramount as excess water from other states could be channelised for the benefit of these arid areas.
All parties should rise above politics and strive for the welfare of the state.
So what’s the solution?
It’s simple yet very difficult. Political will and unanimity from parties in Tamil Nadu. Empathy instead of apathy from the government.
Talking of parched lands — the mandarins of Chennai can take a leaf out of the UAE’s books. This country is not only a pioneer in water desalination projects, I am proud to say that not once have I faced a water situation in my 19 years’ stay here.