Chennai and several parts of Tamil Nadu are currently gripped by acute water shortage, a result of depleted groundwater levels after a deficient Northeast Monsoon in 2018. Though the locals and commercial establishments are facing issues on a daily basis, the AIADMK government has claimed it was taking measures to deal with the situation.
In view of the crisis, the state government has decided to set up a monitoring committee to take up issues related to water supply.
On Monday, state Municipal Administration and Rural Development Minister SP Velumani chaired a review meeting along with senior government officials to study the steps needed to address the water crisis.
Talking to reporters later, Velumani said he has directed officials to form a monitoring committee led by a senior officer who will visit every street in each zone and ensure water supply.
He said water supply has been stepped up from the earlier 450 MLD (million litre per day) to current 525 MLD and it will be continued till the onset of monsoon. The state experiences rainy season from October to November.
Velumani said the government was providing water supply while addressing other related issues "simultaneously". However, the crisis is only expected to worsen in the coming weeks, with water sources like Chennai's Porur Lake reaching their lowest levels.
In its forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday (18-19 June), the India Meterological Department said heat wave condition is likely to prevail at isolated pockets over Tamil Nadu — including Chennai, Tiruvallur, Vellore, Madurai, Tiruvannamalai, Kanchipuram, Cuddalore, Villupuram, Nagapattinam, Ariyalur, Perambalur, Karu and Tiruchirapalli districts — and Puducherry.
The soaring temperature in the region is offering no respite for the perturbed locals. People and commercial establishments have been forced to depend on water supplied through tankers from villages in neighbouring districts. With Chennai Metrowater being unable to meet all demands, the residents are now depending on private water tanker operators.
"We have to stand in a queue for hours under this scorching heat to fetch some water as borewells in the area have gone dry. This is for the third time in a row that Chennai is facing a severe water crisis," a local told ANI.
"Most of the time, the water we get from these hand pumps can't be used for drinking as it stinks. For drinking and cooking, we have to buy water from the shops."
Madras HC pulls up state govt
While hearing a plea on Tuesday, the Madras High Court pulled up the Tamil Nadu government for the serious mismanagement of the water resources.
The News Minute reported that the bench lashed out at the AIADMK government for serious mismanagement of water resources and waiting till the last minute to spread awareness about rainwater harvesting. The reaction came after the Chennai Metrowater Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) submitted a detailed report which said that the water supply to Chennai had reduced from 830 MLD to 525 MLD from 1 June, 2017, due to less rainfall that year.
The high court then ordered Public Works Department to collect information about the orders issued to districts on encroachments and desilting of water bodies. The next hearing will be held on 27 June.
IT companies, hospitality industry tackle situation
Information Technology companies in state largely depend upon private water tankers to meet the demands for their day-to-day operations. However, in the wake of the water crisis, reports suggested that the IT companies were taking steps like asking their employees to work from home and reducing the number of operational washrooms in the premises.
PTI quoted industry sources as saying that quite a few top companies along Old Mahabalipuram Road, also known as the 'IT corridor', and the Siruseri IT Park had verbally asked employees to work from home. "While some teams which are required for taking up day to day operations have been asked to come to office", many others, including software professionals, have been assigned 'work from home duty', an employee of an IT major in suburban Sholinganallur said.
A report published on 14 June by India Today further claimed that nearly 5,000 IT employees had been told to work from home. However, the government has rejected a direct link between the water issue and the employees working from home.
The hospitality industry is also among those hit hard by the crisis. Several restaurants and eateries are dealing with the situation by deciding to stop providing full South Indian lunch meals and urging customers to conserve water, according to reports.
Deccan Herald quoted Chennai Hotels Association president M Ravi as saying last week that about 20 percent of the restaurants had been downing their shutters for three to four days because of the crisis.
"Prolonged waiting time for water and exorbitant pricing are forcing owners to shut their shops for a few days resulting in huge loss. If the situation is not contained, more than 50% restaurants would have to down their shutters by next week," he had said.
What's the govt doing?
The state government has accused the Opposition and the media of blowing up the issue. Chief Minister EK Palaniswami on Tuesday claimed the issue was not as big as was being made out, especially in the media.
Speaking to reporters in Chennai after reviewing the progress of work on the Jayalalithaa memorial, he urged the media not to create an "illusion" of water scarcity based on a few reports. "The (Northeast) Monsoon will arrive only by October-November. Till then we have to meet the requirements only from groundwater sources," he said.
He said that the water from River Krishna from Kandaleru in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh was also not being realised in its full capacity. "All steps are being taken to supply water. The severe drought and deficient monsoon (in the previous years) has led to depletion in groundwater levels."
"But drinking water is being supplied through tankers. People are using this water to even wash clothes," he said. Palaniswami had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday to seeking financial assistance for water conservation.
Meanwhile, DMK chief MK Stalin has demanded Velumani's resignation for the state's inability to solve the impending water crisis in the state. Velumani's failure is behind the drinking water crisis faced by the people in Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu.... If he fails to resign, I urge the chief minister to dismiss him from his post. The people of Tamil Nadu too expect only that," he had said last week. Resignation or no resignation, the truth remains that the common people will have to suffer, at least for a while.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jun 19, 2019 16:20:36 IST