Chennai: A city without water

(Last Updated On: June 26, 2019)

“In health and in sickness, pure water is one of Heaven’s choicest blessings. Its proper use promotes health. It is the beverage which God provided to quench the thirst of animals and man.The Ministry of Healing, 237, 1905. E G White

Last Friday rain fell in Chennai, it was the first rain in 202 days. While Monsoon Season may provide some small respite; it is a city of 10 million people and it’s running out of water.

Chennai is the sixth-largest city in India. It is now a city where people line up for water for hours each day, restaurants turn away customers, businesses ask staff to work from home and it is a hot bed of frustration – fights break out over water and last week a man was killed in a brawl over water.

Trucks have brought in water for residents, with wealthier citizens hiring their own tankers. Picture: AP
Source: AP

In Indian cities town (municipal) water is drawn from under ground reservoirs and is typically only available for a couple of hours each day. That’s the norm year-round.

The affluent top-up their tanks on their homes while the poor fill jerrycans and buckets.

But this year in Chennai the water is barely flowing at all. The government has dispatched water tankers to residential areas to fill the void but not to the Slums. Some people in especially hard-hit areas have vacated their homes and moved in with relatives or friends but not everyone is so lucky.

The city of Chennai has been in the throes of a gripping water crisis for over four months, with rows upon rows of empty water pots becoming a common sight in the city’s streets. The lack of government response amidst the crisis has been frustrating – ranging from promises that it could be managed to outright denial— added to what was already a full blown daily hardship for thousands of people in the city.

With the government finally acknowledging the crisis on last Friday, the city’s skies also let up and sporadic rains were witnessed in many parts of the city. Last weekend, 3.1mm of rain was recorded, bringing cheer among residents. However, the rain bought social media meltdown with posts of water-logging and citizens wading through water on the main roads. 

The main reservoirs around the city— Chembarambakkam, Cholavaram, Poondi and Puzhal– have been nearly wrung-dry with a drastic drop in water levels. The rains came as a relief to the parched city but it’s quickly apparent why even copious rainfall cannot save the city from water scarcity.

Urban planning failure 

There is zero urban governance. Urban planning has taken a back seat to the property development race to the detriment of long-term sustainability.

There is little to no water conservation in Chennai and a complete reliance on the under ground water table. This combined with poor planning, ineffective drainage systems, poor sewage system, the lack of storm water collection and over population causes the roads to flood when it rains but fails to refill the under ground water supply.

Courtesy of South China Morning Post

Steps for the future – what does it mean for our Projects in Chennai long-term?

The reality is we don’t know how long-term water shortages will effect our two Programs in Chennai.

What we do know is that with your help those most vulnerable will be supported what ever is ahead.

How can you help? Please help us and pray for rain in Chennai.

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Author: SueBourke