Pining for that drop of water
Nearly half of Tamil Nadu lives in its cities, the number one State in the country on that count. It is also a State that has always struggled to meet the demand for water. Managing this rapid urbanisation and the steep demand for drinking water in these urban local bodies have been a great challenge for the authorities over the years. And as the cities grow in size, both in population and expanse, the test is only getting tougher for the water managers.
Nowhere is this pressure felt more that the city corporations of Tamil Nadu. There are 12 in all, of which Dindigul and Thanjavur were elevated to Corporation only recently, and all of them are growing exponentially with the basic infrastructure development struggling to keep pace.
Chennai Corporation is a case in point. About three years ago, the State government had approved the proposal to expand its boundaries to bring in the peri-urban areas into its fold by subsuming the municipalities, town and village panchayats into the city municipal corporation. This was done to help these suburbs grow along with the metropolis and also to help them access greater share of funds. While there are several positives for expanding the city limits, there is a serious mismatch between the existing infrastructure in these two areas, which the authorities are struggling to bridge.
Similar is the case with Coimbatore and Madurai, two other city corporations that were expanded in the recent past. As our detailed reports from the ground explain, drinking water shortage is one of the major crises faced by the people, prompting many complaints, protests and road rokos. Much of this, say activists and experts, is also due to the mismanagement of the precious resource.
According to activists, there is public infrastructure like wells and tanks in the villages, on which the people depend upon. However, as these areas get converted into corporations and as land becomes scarce, precious and thus pricier, wells are vanishing from houses and tanks are being encroached upon. Borewells are dotting the landscape, which, and these cause greater damage to the groundwater table. This in effect would add burden on the water managers to find the source to meet the demand.
But the authorities assure that they understand the challenge facing them, and point to the many supply augmentation schemes, including those funded by the State, Centre through programmes like JNNURM and also using foreign funds from Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) and German Development Bank. In all, 76 water supply schemes have been taken up for a total project cost of `2482.88 crore for the urban local bodies.
The authorities have also been encouraging citizen-based initiatives like rainwater harvesting, which, if implemented effectively, can reduce wastage and thus ease the demand burden that the authorities are facing.