Residents fight for water as worst drought hits Chennai

 

Residents fight for water as worst drought hits Chennai

Chennai - Reservoirs have run dry and other water sources are dwindling each day.

By AFP

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Published: Sat 22 Jun 2019, 11:57 PM

Last updated: Sun 23 Jun 2019, 2:00 AM

Angry residents fight in queues at water taps, lakes have been turned into barren moonscapes and restaurants are cutting back on meals as the worst drought in living memory grips Chennai.
The hunt for water in south India's main city has become an increasingly desperate obsession for its 10 million residents after months with virtually no rain.
The bustling capital of Tamil Nadu state usually receives 825 million litres of water a day, but authorities are currently only able to supply 60 per cent of that.
With temperatures regularly hitting 40 degrees Celsius, reservoirs have run dry and other water sources are dwindling each day.
A rainstorm on Thursday night, the first for about six months, brought people out onto the streets to celebrate, but provided only temporary relief.
"We don't sleep at night because we worry that this well will run out," said Srinivasan V., a 39-year-old electrician who starts queueing for water before dawn in his home district near Chennai airport.
The 70 families who use the well are allowed three 25-litre pots each day. Most pay high prices to private companies to get the extra water they need to survive.
Local officials organise a lottery to determine who gets to the front of the queue. The lucky first-comers get clear, fresh water. Those at the end get an earth-coloured liquid.
Srinivasan said he waits about five hours each day in water queues and spends around 2,000 rupees a month on bottled water or paying for a tanker truck to deliver water.
It is a big chunk of his 15,000-rupee monthly salary. "I have loans, including for the house, and I can't repay them now," he said.
The desperation has spilled over into clashes in Chennai. One woman who was involved in a water dispute with neighbours was stabbed in the neck.
In another suffering Tamil Nadu city, Thanjavur, an activist was beaten to death by a neighbouring family after he accused them of hoarding water.
Many in Chennai do not have the money to pay for extra supplies, and arguments in queues for free water often turn violent.
The hunt for H2O dominates daily life. Some Chennai restaurants now serve meals in banana leaves so that they do not have to wash plates. Others have stopped serving lunch altogether to save water.
Families have had to reorganise daily life, setting up schedules for showers and devoting up to six hours a day to line up for water - three in the morning, three in the afternoon.
Most of those queuing are women, including housewife Nagammal Mani, who said looking for water was like "a full time job".
"You need one person at home just to find and fill up the water while the other person goes to work," she said.



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