Photographer Steevez Rodriguez and the PEP Collective follow the water as it is pumped from the almost fully dry reservoirs to the tanker points where it is supplied to residents.

In pictures Chennai searches for water Photo by Steevez Rodriguez/PEP Collective.
news Environment Saturday, July 06, 2019 - 11:14

By Steevez Rodriguez

Reports have come in that by 2020, about 21 major Indian cities would run out of ground water. But Chennai has fast-forwarded itself to 2020 already and has little or no groundwater available for the people to use. With monsoon failing in 2018, little or rain through 2019, inadequate and inefficient water distributing and storage system, concrete covering most of the land area with voracious constructions across the city not allowing rain water to seep underneath, rising population density have all added up to this catastrophe.

Like most of the global citizens, Chennaiā€™s own have overlooked the adverse effects of climate change that looms larger than life over everyone with every passing day. A faster rate of ā€œdevelopmentā€ promised by governments have just speeded up the level of destruction. With every possible reservoir dried out and depleting ground water levels across city, people have finally woken up to see the calamity they face.

Metrowater (the government agency supplying water to the city) lorries are the only source of water running around the city. With large tanker lorries and smaller trucks with Sintex water tanks loaded, the city tries to meet its water needs with the multiple trips these vehicles make through the day. On average, the filling station starts to function by around 5 am every morning and pushes upto 2 am in the night. The smaller trucks are an emergency measure to tackle the water shortage and are employed on a contract basis.

Many hotels, restaurants, schools, colleges were shut down for a few days as they were not able to meet their requirements. Information technology companies with their big buildings and a high number of employees aggregated at a single place, have given their staff members the option of working from home. Most of the apartments function with a daily routine of over minutes of water discharge.

The situation has gone on to become a grim joke, with briyani sellers luring in customers by giving them freebies of the most wanted commodity; Water.

Chembarambakkam lake is the major reservoir that provided water to people of Chennai. With this and other water sources like Poondi, Cholavaram, Puzhal lakes dried up, the intensity of the crisis is clear. Photo by Palani Kumar/PEP Collective.

Water tankers are used mainly to distribute water to apartments, large offices and other bigger buildings for a price. Smaller tanks are hired on a contract basis to distribute water directly to people. Photo by Steevez Rodriguez/PEP Collective.

A Metrowater tank is filled with water at the filling station. These are the only lifeline to citizens of Chennai. They make multiple trips through the day filling at metro stations and distributing them across to various places. Photo by Steevez Rodriguez/PEP Collective.

 Metrowater lorry drivers rest for the night outside a water filling station. The increasing crisis has led to more drivers being employed on a contract basis. Photo by Steevez Rodriguez/PEP Collective.

Metrowater lorry drivers rest for the night outside a water filling station. The increasing crisis has led to more drivers being employed on a contract basis. Photo by Steevez Rodriguez/PEP Collective.

People wait for their turn to fill water. Photo by Steevez Rodriguez/PEP Collective.

Drilling a borewell. With increasing population density and rise in residential buildings, the need for groundwater has multiplied. The lack of proper water storage systems citizens has caused increased dependency on groundwater. Photo by Steevez Rodriguez/PEP Collective.

The tower in Puzhal lake to measure height is left with no water around. Photo by Palani Kumar/PEP Collective.

An almost dry Puzhal lake that is one of the reservoirs providing water to people of Chennai. Photo by Palani Kumar/PEP Collective.

This story was first published on Mongabay and has been republished with permission. The original article can be found here.
 

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