The southern city of Chennai—India’s fifth largest with a population of around 10 million—has been meeting only two-thirds of its water needs for weeks, the product of years of drought and decades of failure to manage the region’s water resources. Residents have been scrambling around the clock to get water—spending hours chasing government tankers or paying private companies to deliver water. Recent light rains broke a 200-day streak without rain. But the first month of India’s annual monsoon brought one-third less rain than the 50-year average, the driest June in five years, according to the India Meteorological Department.
The acute water shortage in one of India’s largest cities has been building for decades through a mix of population growth, poor planning and increasingly erratic monsoon rains….
The situation in Chennai reflects a larger water crisis spreading across India. Half the country’s population—600 million people—live in areas where water resources are highly or extremely stressed. About 100 million people living in 21 of India’s biggest cities may see their groundwater exhausted by the end of next year, according to a 2018 study by NITI Aayog, an Indian government policy think tank. By 2030, demand for water will be double the country’s supply, the report said. And the impact will go far beyond the areas actually affected by water shortages: Almost one-third of the country’s agricultural output comes from areas most affected by water shortages…
The scarcity has led to clashes between neighbors. “No one is ready to share even a glass of water,” she said.
Excerpts from Vibhuti Agarwal and Krishna Pokhare Indians Hunt Through the Night for Water as a Megacity Runs Dry, WSJ, July 6, 2018