With the rain having played truant last year with Chennai recording only 343.77 mm of rainfall during the northeast monsoon, water supply has been severely affected across the city and residents have been forced to turn to private water tankers. In March this year, the AIADMK-led government declared 24 districts, including Chennai, drought-affected.
Chennai has traditionally been fed by lakes and reservoirs around the city as it lies in a rain shadow region, thus receiving lesser rain than other southern cities. With these water bodies dry, and Chennai’s groundwater depleted, residents are increasingly relying on water supplied by the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) and private water tankers.
“There is a huge demand for water in my locality but the metro water tanker, which comes once in two days, supplies only four buckets of water per family,” said 28-year-old Akhilandeshwari Venkatramani, a resident of Triplicane. She claimed that although there are around 100 families in the locality, the lion’s share of water is being consumed by two hotels and a few large houses which pay an extra sum to the tankers to provide more water.
“In addition to the metro water, I book a private tanker to supply water to my house. However, they take a week to arrive after booking and demand extra money in case of any delay even if it is on their end. The situation this year has become so bad that I have had to shift my family to my in-laws’ house in Madipakkam where the situation is less severe,” she added.
Echoing her anguish is Dhiraj Castelino, 39, a resident of an apartment complex in Kandanchavadi on Old Mahabalipuram Road. “There are close to 500 families living in my complex and water here is entirely supplied by private tankers since there is no direct supply by the CMWSSB,” he said, adding that they face a shortage every two days, and that the situation took a turn for the worse when supply was completely disrupted on May 21 when tankers failed to show up.
Chithra Chockalingam, 49, from Mylapore said that the residents in her apartment complex receive metro water once in three days as the water from their borewell was not enough to cater to the needs of 60 families. Worried about the future, she said, “We might have to consider booking a private tanker since we get metro water in only one tap for each house, which is not sufficient.”
Swetha Sivaram, 34, an architect from Mylapore said the issue began last December. “Back then, tankers took five days to supply water. Now, they take 20 days. Sometimes, owners even reject the booking after cooking up reasons for the same,” she said.
Residents in her apartment have access to borewell water, which is salty and not up to the mark, she said and added that most of the residents in her street had opted for private tankers since their borewells were unable to tap water anymore due to the lack of rainfall in the city.
Her mother, Meenakshi Sivaram, 61, said that the residents in her locality at Chinmaya Nagar were dependent on well water and borewells, since the supply of metro water was cut last month. “We have not resorted to private water tankers since there are only four flats in my complex and we do not have any shortage”, she said.