Chennai is the sixth largest city in India that relies on Chembarambakkam and three other reservoirs for its water needs. However, the floor of the Chembarambakkam reservoir’s floor is sun-baked, dry, and even cracked open. This has caused a water shortage in Chennai.
Tamil Nadu state government is currently struggling to provide water to the residents of the city because of its inability to collect enough rainwater. The water is being brought into Chennai in trucks. The residents are forced to stand in lines for hours in the rising summer temperature to get water for their households.
Suresh Subburaman, the owner of the Nivis Kitchen Hotel and a resident of Chennai, said, ‘We are open, and we are somehow functioning. But we are running at a no-loss, no-gain situation. This is our only business. We have no other option. We have to run it. Earlier, the water would come every day at home. Now, we get it every three to four days. We store the water in a small tank or 20-liter plastic pots at home.’
The private tankers are coming into Chennai from the outer areas that are not experiencing the shortage. However, the demand is rising exponentially, and the private tankers are not being able to keep up. The municipal body is working hard and has even prioritized the low-income households for water delivery but the residents that book government water tankers have to wait for a month before they are provided with water.
Chennai has a population of 4.6 million according to a census that was conducted in 2011. While the wealthy families are able to book private tankers, the brunt of the water shortage is being faced by those who are living in the slums. Jyoti Sharma, founder and president of FORCE – Indian NGO doing work on water conservation -, said, ‘Governments are now scrambling to make sure people have water. Groundwater wells are drying faster and faster every year. It’s increasingly becoming a pan-India problem. Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai once in a while, Delhi — they’re all in the news for the same reason. They’re running out of water. Unless we adapt our water storage to suit the change in rain intensity, we’re going to suffer really badly. All parts of India — rural, urban, everybody.’