Water crisis
The court slammed the government of Tamil Nadu on non-existent water management measures in the state.
Image for representation/PTI

The Madras High Court criticised the Tamil Nadu state government led by the AIADMK for serious mismanagement of water resources in Tamil Nadu. The court said that Tamil Nadu’s water scarcity did not happen in a day and that the government knew very well that this was coming. Knowing this, zero water management efforts were taken by the government, the judges added.

The sharp remarks came on Tuesday as the court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation concerning prevention of effluents flowing into a canal in Vellore. The court had, last week, ordered the government of Tamil Nadu to submit a status report on the steps taken to address the water problem in the state.

In response to that, the government of Tamil Nadu submitted a detailed report about the water situation. In the report submitted by the Chennai Metrowater Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB), it stated that since Northeast Monsoon failed in 2017 drying up the lakes, the water supply to the city was reduced from 830 MLD to 525 MLD from June 1, 2017.   

Addressing water scarcity in Chennai

The report also said that Chennai city is receiving 180 MLD of water from the desalination plants in Nemmeli and Minjur. It also stated that of the four lakes that usually supply water to the city, only Poondi reservoir has 26 mcft of water as against its full capacity of 3,231 mcft. The report also mentioned that there is no water in the other three reservoirs – Chembarambakkam, Cholavaram and Redhills.  

According to the report, 180 MLD is being taken for supplying to Chennai city from Veeranam lake in which the current water level is at 569 mcft as against its full capacity of 1,465 mcft. Around 9,400 trips are being undertaken by 900 tanker lorries in Chennai and water is also being supplied to narrow streets by smaller vehicles with capacities of 2,000 to 3,000 litres, added the report.  In addition to this, the report also stated that steps are being taken to explore the possibilities of setting up new desalination plants which could supply up to 5 MLD water to Chennai city.

The Chennai Metrowater report further stated that Rs 212 crore is being spent on various measures to address the acute water crisis that Chennai is currently facing.

Judges question report

After perusing the report submitted on behalf the government of Tamil Nadu, judges S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad came down heavily on the state government on its efforts to solve the water crisis across Tamil Nadu.

The judges asked what action has been taken to desilt the water bodies and reclaim water bodies from encroachments.  The judges also asked state government about the steps taken to prevent excess rainwater from flowing into the sea.

Slamming the state water resources department for waiting till the last moment to create awareness about rain water harvesting among the people, the court also questioned the government on the alternate arrangements made for sourcing water as the lakes ran dry.

TN government responds

The state government responded that the present water crisis happened due to monsoon failure and that steps are being taken to set up 270 purification centres which will supply 270 MLD of water.

Arguing for government of Tamil Nadu, the Advocate General also said that Cholavaram lake has been desilted at a cost of Rs 38 lakh and that as soon as the third desalination unit starts operation, Chennai need not depend on monsoon for its water needs.

Following this, the judges ordered Public Works Department to collect information from all the districts about the orders issued to rid water bodies of encroachments and desilt them and posted the case for June 27.