Chembarambakkam reservoir | Outlook Business
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Imagenation

Burning Paradox
Chennai is facing one of the worst droughts after having been flooded three years ago

Krishna Gopalan

For a city that was submerged less than three years ago, Chennai presents a remarkably tragic paradox. The city’s four main reservoirs together hold 151 million cubic feet (mcft) of water — that’s just 1.3% of its total capacity of 11,257 mcft. This is the lowest it has fallen to in the past seven decades. In short, this is one of the worst droughts the southern city has encountered. The picturesque Chembarambakkam reservoir, a key sourcing point and a picnic spot, is parched dry. Dead fish cover most of its 3,800 acres. On an average, 850 mm of rainfall that comes the city’s way each year from the northeast monsoon, last year had just 390 mm. It set off a panic and the government turned to water rationing to address the problem. Consequently, the daily supply is now down to 550 million litres per day (mlpd) from 880 mlpd. Water tankers are thronging the roads, with residents willing to pay exorbitant prices. In 2001, rainwater harvesting was made mandatory for all old and new buildings in Chennai but the implementation seems to have made little headway. Water experts say that the monitoring systems are weak and there is no way to measure how much has been harvested in each property. There was a spark of hope when cyclone Fani was sweeping in from the north Indian Ocean, but it made just a fleeting appearance. Undoubtedly, a more effective water-management plan is urgently needed. Till then, Chennai will be at the mercy of the rain gods.

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