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Tamil Nadu water woes: Chennai goes thirsty, industry feels the heat

The whole city is grappling under a severe water crisis; IT firms and restaurants have cut down operations

T E Narasimhan & Gireesh Babu  |  Chennai 

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Tamil Nadu and its capital are struggling to meet the water demand of its citizens. The city is facing drought for the third year in a row.

With few signs of rain across the state and reservoirs running dry, water shortage in is at its peak. Demand for water in the city has gone up by 47 per cent in the last decade from from 750 MLD in 2008 to 1,100 MLD in 2018. In the same period metro water supply has come down by eight per cent from 650 MLD to 600 MLD. Against a total of 11,257mcft capacity, the four reservoirs supplying water to have less than 35mcft water left in store.

While the city has been expanding, the number of reservoirs in have remained same for the past 100 years. In terms of water consumption, Chennai's per capita consumption at 107 liters per capita per day is low compared to 140-270 per capita per day in other cities.

In 2018, rainfall in Chennai had been at the lowest at 75.55 centimeter as against 149.5 centimeter in 2017. The city has seen the longest dry spell in a decade this year, with no rains for over 190 days since last north east monsoon period.

Various industries are taking measures to mitigate this crisis and cut down water usage. For instance, companies in the the IT-hub of Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) have started asking their employees to work from home. According to reports over 60 per cent of the daily 3 crore litre water distributed in OMR is used by IT companies.

Major companies in the IT-hub of Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) are taking various measures to control water usage, including controlling the water flow from the taps and reducing the number of toilets. In an attempt to conserve water in their premises, have taken measures to reduce the flow of water in washbasin taps. If there were five toilets in an office or a floor earlier, it has been reduced to two in order to reduce usage of water, sources in the know said.

"At least 20 per cent of the workers are asked to work from home in some of the small and medium companies. The problem for the employees is that there might be shortage of water in their residence also and staying at home longer would mean more water consumption at home," said Vinod AJ, general secretary, Forum for IT Employees. He added that some of the companies have put a halt on the recruitment process for the time being. They hope that if IT companies can collectively represent water woes to the government, some action could be taken mitigate the problem.

The regional officials from Nasscom did not comment on the situation and a response is awaited from its central office.

Real estate developers have stopped construction work in major parts of the city due to Hotels have cut down the number of working hours and said they will not provide thali (meals) as it uses up more water. For a 100 seat restaurant, 12,000 litres of water is used up every day, said M. Ravi, president of the Chennai Hotel Owners’ Association.

Residents from prime localities like Triplicane, Alwarpet and Mylapore have started shifting homes in search of water.

Hyundai Motor said that the prevailing water shortage situation in Chennai has impacted them as well. Over the years, the automobile producer has implented water management practices at the factory in a bid to conserve water. They have installed a rainwater harvesting system which collects rainwater from the factory premises into a storage pond. Most of the harvested water is recycled through the in-house water treatment plant.

For its customers "dry wash" car cleaning service has been brought back in the service stations, so that customers can get their cars cleaned through an eco-friendly process which can save up to 120 litres of water for each car.

Steps taken by the government

The Madras High Court has asked Tamil Nadu government to submit a report on measures it has taken to ensure water availability in Chennai.

Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) officials said they are entirely dependent on alternative sources like water from desalination plants and stone quarries in Kanchipuram district, that are also drying up fast.

Harmander Singh, Secretary to the Government in the Municipal Administration and Water Supply Department said his Department is identifying new sources of waters.

“We are exploring all options, including cloud seeding. We are also talking to manufacturers for designing a technology which can produce water from humidity”, he said.

The ruling AIADMK, which is facing the heat of water crisis, called for all-party meet to discuss about the issue. The state administration has sought an aid of around Rs 5,398 crore from the centre to address the in its capital and the state.

First Published: Mon, June 17 2019. 14:29 IST