According to reports by the year 2020, around 21 major Indian cities will run out of groundwater.
Chennai, though, appears to be in 2020 already. Several factors have led to the calamity: a failed monsoon in 2018, little or no rain in 2019, inadequate and inefficient water distribution and storage, concretisation and rising population density.
Like most global citizens, residents of Chennai have so far overlooked the adverse effects of climate change that looms larger with every passing day. Development promised by governments has simply escalated the groundwater crisis with water unable to seep into underground aquifers. With every possible reservoir having dried out, Chennai has finally woken up to the scale of the problem it is facing.
Today, government water-supply agency Metrowater’s lorries are the only source of water for most Chennai citizens. On average, the city’s water filling station starts to function by around 5 am every morning and pushes onward till 2 am at night. Loaded with Sintex water tanks, large tanker lorries and smaller trucks make multiple trips through the day, trying to quench a city’s thirst. The smaller trucks are emergency measures, hired on a contractual basis to tackle the shortage.
Unable to meet water requirements, many hotels, restaurants, schools and colleges were shut for a few days. Information technology companies with their big buildings and a high number of employees have given their staff the option of working from home.
Needless to say, the situation is grim. It is best outlined perhaps by the example of biryani sellers who are trying to make most of what remains by offering customers freebies of the most wanted commodity: water.
This article first appeared on Mongabay.