Chennai's ongoing water crisis, Kerala offers 20 lakh litres of water

However, on neighbouring Kerala's one-time offer to send two million litres of drinking water by train to Tamil Nadu, the chief minister said his state would ask Kerala to send water on a daily basis as Chennai requires 525 million litres every day.

"The government is not even acknowledging that there is a water crisis", said DMK's Saravanan Annadurai. "The media should not create an illusion of water scarcity using some stray incidents".

Chief Minister E Palaniswami said drought and deficient monsoon had resulted in depletion of groundwater levels, but claimed the issue was not as big as was being made out, especially in the media. By the month of October-November, the northeast monsoon will arrive and till then required need will be met with groundwater sources.

This initiative will be carried on for six months and Rs 65 crore has been set apart for the objective, he said.

Meanwhile, Municipal Administration and Rural Development Minister S P Velumani had directed officials to establish a monitoring committee led by a senior officer to visit every street in each zone and ensure adequate water supply, stated a report.

The situation in Chennai reflects an ongoing nationwide crisis as a fatal heat wave sweeps across the country, and cities from Mumbai to Delhi face dwindling water supplies. "We store the water in a small tank or 20-liter plastic pots at home", said Subburaman whose home is in Egattur neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Chennai. Hariharan added that the water sources such as Sholavaram, Red Hills and Chemabarambakkam lakes have totally dried up.

People are lining up for water cans in the state capital, Chennai.

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While the city has been expanding, the number of reservoirs in Chennai have remained same for the past 100 years. Drinking water has become a matter of crisis.

"We are not able to get good water fulfilling quality parameters from the ground hence we are forced to buy tanker water which is very costly and increases the cost of construction", Varun Manian, Managing Director, Radiance Realty Developers India Ltd, told IANS.

The situation has put a burden on Chennai's water department, which has been distributing water in neighbourhoods through government trucks.

Another industry hit by the water shortage is the IT sector.

Vinoth Kaligai, the general secretary of an IT workers' association, confirmed that some firms had told employees to stay at home. Restaurants too have drastically cut-down their operations. "I'm only using a maximum of 2 buckets and drink 4 litre of water per day". Some rain has been reported in Chennai on Thursday.

The reasons for the water shortage are complex but experts cite as one reason unplanned urban development that has destroyed the wetlands around the city.

Chennai is the latest casualty of a countrywide drought that has left 600 million people dealing with high to extreme water shortages, according to a 2018 report by Niti Aayog, a policy think tank for the Indian government.

  • Sonia Alvarado