Even as Chennai reels under a severe water crisis, that has brought many parts of the city to a standstill, the Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) has reportedly begun turning off its air-conditioning to reduce water consumption. The CMRL has resorted to the extreme measure as summer temperatures have been soaring across the state and the water levels in the four lakes in Chennai's periphery have recorded one of the lowest in 70 years.
According to one report in the Times of India, the CMRL has resorted to turning off the air-conditioning during non-peak hours— between noon and 5 pm. The Chennai Metro, a 45-km long commute around the city, reportedly guzzles 9,000 litres of water day with nearly 80% of that going towards operating the air-conditioning system.
One Chennai Metro official told the newspaper, “We switch on the AC system once in an hour to make sure we maintain 26 deg C at both platform and concourse levels. By switching off, we are able to save around 30% of water at every station. We ensure temperatures of 25 to 26 deg C is maintained in the trains. Every coach has two 41KV AC units. Our units in trains have been working efficiently and has so far not reported any failure.”
While the move may help save water, the report also states that passengers have been inconvenienced due to it. It may be noted that, unlike other modes of public transportation available in the city— the MRTS (Chennai Mass Rapid Transit System) and buses, a huge part of the Chennai Metro’s appeal to commuters is the air-conditioning.
Worsening the water crisis across the city, close to 5,000 private water tankers that supply water to Chennai from Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts threatened to go on strike beginning May 27, following a crackdown by the government on ‘illegal’ drawing of water. While the Tamil Nadu Private Water Tanker Lorry Owners’ Association temporarily called off the strike, the move prompted over 100 residents' association across Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) to write to the Chief Minister, seeking his intervention to address the water crisis.