CHENNAI: A recent global study by the World Resource Institute has put Chennai on the map for being an ‘extremely water-stressed’ city. This means that, on an average, more than 80 per cent of its available water supply is used up every year by consumers, industries and agriculture.
A majority of districts in Tamil Nadu and Chennai, were found to have extremely high levels of water stress, exceeding 80 per cent. Before recent rain came as a timely respite, the city was reeling under one of its worst water crisis in two decades.
The report also predicted that both Chennai and other parts of the State will have extremely high demand for drinking water by 2030. Chennai received international media attention when all four of its main reservoirs went dry two months ago. But, it is not the only city to be burdened by growing population combined with depleting drinking water sources.
Other districts like Vellore, Thanjavur, Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram, Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur were found to have a high demand for surface and groundwater. While other districts like Salem, Dharmapuri, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tirunelveli, parts of Tiruchy and Ramanathapuram were found to have high levels of water stress, which is about 40-80 per cent. Puducherry also falls in the same category.
On the same lines, risk of other natural calamities like drought and floods were also found to be disturbingly high for Tamil Nadu and other Southern States too. Tamil Nadu ranked fourth among all States in the country under the drought-risk category.
The report was prepared using the institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas that ranked 189 countries across the globe on issues like water stress, drought risk, and flood risk. The atlas was prepared using 13 indicators with the help of professors from international universities.
The report also ranked India as the 13th country among the world’s 17 ‘extremely water-stressed countries’. It said Northern states were found to have highly depleted groundwater levels while Western and Southern parts have a drought risk of more than 80 per cent. States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were a bright red on the atlas indicating extremely levels of water stress. Less than a handful number of States and districts fell under the low-risk category.
Raj Bhagat Palanichamy, an earth observation expert part of WRI, India, said there are five major solutions to bring down the water stress level of Chennai, in particular.
These include improving efficiency in irrigation, protect flood plains and other natural storage systems, install rainwater harvesting structures in dense urban areas, and have a decentralised water and waste water system. “Most importantly, the government must make all data pertaining to water resources open to all. It must be a transparent system,” he added.