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Reservoirs go dry in Chennai, India

  • Reservoirs go dry in Chennai, India
    Satellite image of Chennai. Credit: Wikipedia

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The city of Chennai, on the south-eastern coast of India, previously known as Madras, faces a water crisis as the reservoirs that supply drinking water to the city have run dry, reports the BBC.

The megacity, capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, has a population of over 4 million, and more than double that in its metropolitan area. City residents have to stand in line for hours to receive water from government tanks. Some hotels and restaurants have shut down for the time being due to water shortages, and some companies have asked their personnel to work from home to conserve water.

The city’s four reservoirs, with a combined capacity of 11,257 million cubic feet (almost 319 million m3) are at 0.32 % of their capacity, according to the CNBC. The government can provide about 450 million litres per day through desalination plants and existing reservoirs, and private tankers supply 200 million litres per day, but Chennai’s daily demand is estimated at 950 million litres.

The city not only contends with dry reservoirs but also groundwater depletion, which residents turn to in dry years. But as more residents use their bore-wells, they encounter increased salinity and sediment issues. Unsustainable groundwater use is not uncommon in Indian cities: 21 major cities, including Delhi and Bangalore, are expected to run out of groundwater as soon as 2020, as the water demand exceeds the available supply.

The government of Tamil Nadu announced it will increase the supply to 525 million litres per day until the Monsoon next October, CNBC reports; this clearly will not be enough to address the city’s water woes. The city now looks forward to the rainy season, which some see as the only option to save the situation. Only time will tell if the current drought will ease off.

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