Parched Chennai: an eyeopener to all

Parched Chennai: an eyeopener to all

A city of just 50 million and spread over 180 sq. kms, Chennai is also home to three big rivers

A city of just 50 million and spread over 180 sq. kms, Chennai is also home to three big rivers, five wetlands and six forest areas. Yet, in just three years, the city has gone bone dry.

How did it happen? The reason is simple. Chennai only knows how to consume water but not how to preserve it. Even poor households have to pay an additional Rs 2,000 each for their monthly requirement of water needs. Water is something that man cannot do away with.

The IT corridors of Chennai have asked employees to work out of homes or bring their own water to offices. Water rationing forces people to remain indoors during the supply hours to fill up precious water even in tumblers.

It is not that Chennai does not get water in any form. There are copious rains during cyclones etc., yet there is no plan on how to utilise the floodwaters properly. Chennai does not even know where the next pot of water is coming by.

Shockingly, tankers are pumping stagnated water from the abandoned stone quarries to meet at least five per cent population needs. About 90 mld water comes from a 1,100-year-old Chola era tank built by Rajaditya Chola, some 235 kms away from Chennai.

What an irony that a ruler from the past is still quenching the thirst of the descendants of his subjects 1,100 years later too! Chief Minister E K Palaniswami has landed in controversy as his residence receives two tankers of water everyday while his immediate neighbourhood as that of the city elsewhere remains dry.

Chennai was not like this in the past. Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur used to be called the 'Yeri" districts (lake districts). The Detroit of South as it was called for its vast automobile industry, Chennai remained complacent.

It never planned for its future while it planned its economic future. Successive governments' housing projects called 'Yeri Schemes' made the canals and supply routes vanish.

The governments' allowed water bodies and wetlands and forest areas to be turned into housing projects and apartments. As the buildings grew towards the sky, people began digging deeper into the earth for precious water.

Cooum river was entirely killed by sewage waste and filth. Kosathalaiyar and Adyar are no better. Those have become something like Hyderabad's own Musi.

These are all glorified gutters as their feeder lines and banks have been ceded to encroachers small and big. The wetlands like Pallikaranai Marsh, Pulicat Lake, Kattupalli Island, Madhavaram and Manali Jheels and the Adyar Estuary Creek have seen massive encroachments, thanks to largescale urbanisation.

Even though the city gets about 85 percent of its total water in October and November, the run-off rate is very high and is impossible to build his dams to save the water for dry months ahead.

Chennai's topography required rainwater harvesting and desalination plants. The Prime Minister laid emphasis on 'Jal Shakti' but can he prod people to adopt "Jai Jal" slogan instead of 'Jai Shri Ram' for the new India. Chennai should be an eyeopener to all.

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