Water is the most essential item for human life. If anything
goes wrong with water, it is the main cause of health problem (endemic
diseases) also. If the ground water level goes below at an alarming
rate, the day may not be far away when the cracks would develop in
the earth crust due to poor binding of soil and that might lead to
earthquakes. Also, it would make the land not fit for agriculture.
Especially if the ground water table goes below in places like Chennai,
close to the seashore, it would help the seawater to creep into the
ground water table. Over a period of 40-50 years, it may turn the
land into a desert. These forecasts may sound unbelievable and exaggerated
but these unpleasant predictions can not be summarily dismissed. Although,
many points discussed in this article holds good for major cities
in India, let us have a close look at the water problem faced by Chennai.
In 1960, the population of Chennai was 15 lakhs. In the last 4 decades,
its population has tripled to 45-50 lakhs. A simple calculation would
suggest that the water availability in Chennai should also have at
least tripled to match the increasing need. With the increased number
of buildings within the city and the ever-increasing growth of the
city, the open land available for water retention has gone down drastically
in the last 10-15 years. Also, the need for more water led to the
receding of the water table. There were no systematic and conscious
attempts to rejuvenate the water table. This has brought us today's
condition where Chennai faces a severe water problem. It is an irony
that we have landed ourselves into this situation in spite of regular
rains in that past one decade.
Water Consumption in Chennai
An individual would require about 8 buckets (15 litre capacity) of
water every day for all his uses only (1 buckets for brushing the
teeth and face washing, 2 buckets of water for toilet use, 2 buckets
of water for bathing, and 3 buckets of water for washing cloths).
Thus, a family of five would require about 40 buckets of water for
their individual uses. Apart from this, a family would require 5-6
buckets of water for utensil cleaning, 2 buckets for floor cleaning,
2-3 buckets of water for drinking (about 8 litres of water per person
per day). Thus, in total a family of five would require on a conservative
estimate about 50 buckets of water (approx. 750 litres of water per
day). Those who still treat water as a common commodity would end
up using more water (more than 1000 litres per day for a family) and
those who can not afford luxurious use of water may use around 500
litres per day for a family of five. For our analysis, let us consider
100 litres is the water requirement per person per day in Chennai.
Thus, only about 20% water consumed in a family is for personal cleaning
and toiletry usage. Remaining water is used for utensil, cloth and
of Rain Water
Assuming 50 lakhs is the current population of Chennai and the water
required per day is 50 crores i.e. half a billion litres per day.
Thus, for a year, the water consumption in Chennai city alone works
out to around 180 billion litres. An estimate suggests that 2400 sq.ft
of land in Chennai receives about 3 lakh litres of rainwater per year.
Thus, on an average 1200 billion litres of water falls on Chennai
per year whereas the water requirement for Chennai per year is 180
billion litres (15% of overall rain fall in Chennai per year). In
other words, if Chennai has to depend only on rainwater, it needs
to find a way to save about one seventh of the total rain fall in
a year. In spite of this, if we face water scarcity, the blame lies
in poor harvesting of rainwater.
Measures on War-Footing
The government in Tamilnadu shows the semblance that it has gauged
the seriousness of this issue. However, the measures taken on war
footing can utmost be a temporary solution. As soon as this government
took over in Tamilnadu, arrangements were made to bring water from
Neyveli (63 lakh litres per day), Mettur (22 lakh litres per day)
and Erode (about 10 lakh litres per day). Thus, a total of 90-95 lakh
litres of water is brought to Chennai every day by rail and road,
from about 200-400 kms of distance. We must notice a point here that
the amount spent on transport of this much water would be highly prohibitive.
Apart from this fact, one should also compare this quantity of water
( approx. 1 crore litre) as against the water requirement of Chennai
per day (0.5 billion i.e. 50 crore litres). Thus, this measure can
augment the water requirement only to the tune of 2% of total water
needed for Chennai.
It should also be mentioned here that Tamilnadu government has requested
the Andhra Pradesh government to supply water to Chennai to supplement
its water needs. It is also widening the canals to receive water from
Andhra Pradesh (from Kandalur) and also tries to build small dams
across these canals to minimize water loss. Water filling stations
are located near these small dams. While the government is taking
all efforts to overcome the water scarcity of Chennai during this
summer, it is also taking some serious steps to arrive at a permanent
solution. While we appreciate the concern and efforts taken by the
Tamilnadu government, it should also look into some of the suggestions
made here to cope up with the water requirement of Chennai. At the
same time people should also adhere to some of the disciplines in
water consumption. Water is proving to be costly now and a day may
come when water would become costlier than milk. Let us avoid that
situation by following some of the constructive suggestions made in
this article. Before we discuss about the approaches that one can
implement at an individual small level, let us have a look at what
the TN government is trying to do.