Grappling with a water crisis in urban and rural areas without a long-term solution, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Wednesday announced construction of 10,000 check dams across the state in the current financial year.
He said Rs 312 crore has been allocated for the project.
Palaniswami said MNREGA workers will be used in construction of these check dams, and they will be built along the floodplains, water channels and streams in rural areas to store water for irrigation and recharge groundwater table.
Specifying that the government will speed up work on completing these projects, a senior PWD official said they will soon deploy engineers to begin the process to scientifically identify locations for the project considering topography and existing floodplain data in each location.
Monsoon failure in two successive years made the water crisis worse this summer. The delayed arrival of the southwest monsoon, which was forecast in the second week of June, also left Chennai and several regions deprived of groundwater resources.
An effort to compensate over-exploitation
The Tamil Nadu government’s plan to build 10,000 check dams are in effect a bid to compensate thousands of traditional water tanks that have disappeared over the decades. PWD officials say the state is now left with hardly 4,000 natural water tanks — against nearly 40,000 that existed earlier. Around 4,000 smaller and bigger water tanks in Chennai metropolitan area were among those that disappeared over the years, and the city is seeing a slow death of some of its major water sources and water systems, including the Palliakranai marshland, due to massive encroachment and destruction, and being used for garbage disposal.
The forecast shows an average rainfall of 45 cm from southwest monsoon. Both Meteorological Department and the state government estimate that water tables will get recharged only by the northeast monsoon by the end of October or November, which is the prominent monsoon season in the region.
“Massive destruction of traditional water tanks in Palar basin (Chennai city is situated here), over-exploitation of groundwater sources in Chennai’s suburbs for commercial purposes, and zero water conservation have added to this crisis,” a senior consultant with Chennai metro water authority said.
The state, especially Chennai, faced a similar drought situation in 2001-02 period.
Similar to the current crisis, the government had then spent Rs75 crore to bring drinking water to the city by railway wagons.
According to metro water officials, 10 million litres of water per day will start reaching Chennai in wagons from Jolarpet within two days. About 50 wagons, each with a capacity of 55,000 litres, have been brought from Rajasthan for the water transportation project.