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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Water, water everywhere but acute scarcity of water !!

An island is any piece of land that is surrounded by water – can you imagine of an island facing water crisis !!  (when there is water, water everywhere – there can only be problem of aplenty !!!)
The month of October has come – still there is oppressive heat in Singara Chennai, the capital of Tamilnadu.  The perennial problem for the people of Chennai has been the scarcity of water (especially drinking water) for lack of perennial rivers.  Historically, Chennai has relied on annual monsoon rains to replenish water reservoirs, as no major rivers flow through the area.
The resident and floating population of the metropolis is growing by leaps and bounds and quite regularly city faces water supply shortages, despite the fact that the packaged water sells in millions of units.  It is not restricted to the top echelons of the Society, many buy packaged water though there are some brands the quality of which requires deeper investigations.  To sell water has become a thriving industry in the city and its suburbs.  This is the period when the city (the State also) receives its share of rains – the North East monsoon would become active in peninsular India and there would be rainfall.  This period was earlier referred as retreating southwest monsoon season.   
Fortunately, there has not been severe shortages in the recent past vastly due to unfailing rains and the success of rainwater harvesting.   The full value of Telugu Ganga project and the sea water desalination plant are yet to be realized.   In olden days, the city received water from local shallow wells and tanks.
The modern day houses (mostly converted into apartments)  in the city do not have open wells and most tanks have dried up.  Of course the tank at Triplicane Sri Parthasarathi Swami temple presents a different picture replete with water ! 
Centuries back, the Govt started tapping the Kortalayar river and diverting the water into Cholavaram lake and into Red Hills lake through channel.  The work in 1870 reportedly cost the Ex-chequer a princely 18.50 lakhs.  At Chennai the channel delivered water by gravity into a masonry shaft at Kilpauk (Kilpauk Water Works) from where the cast iron mains branched off to various parts of the city through the designed water supply distribution system.  There are reservoirs at Poondy, Cholavaram, Red hills and Chembarambakkam and according to official sources, the combined capacity available is 8933 Mcft as against the storage capacity of 11057 Mcft (it was 4596 mcft last year !) – rains would certainly improve the position further.
CMWSSB – called Metro Water has another problem at hand – need to ramp up its supply as new areas are coming within Corporation limits.  Presently the city gets piped water and in those places where the infrastructure is not available, water supply is through tankers and by filling road side tanks.
Metrowater says that with the current expansion of the city the agency will have to supply around 1,150 million litres per day (MLD) up from 750 MLD keeping in mind the national standard of 135 litres per capita consumption per day (CPLD).   Chennai has over 3,000 water bodies including some 1,500 lakes and 29 water tanks.  If all these water bodies are restored, protected, maintained ensuring storage of water, there will not be problem on the water front.  In suburbs there are borewells but keeping the groundwater table is important for maintaining the water level and the quality of water available. 
The management of water always poses great trouble to the Administration… imagine what will happen if there is no water !  - there is news that  Tiny Pacific Island of Tuvalu calls state of emergency with just two days of drinking water left.
Tuvalu (earlier known as Ellice islands) is a group of islands located in Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia – its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls. Its population of 10,472 makes it the third-least populous sovereign state in the world, with only Vatican City and Nauru having fewer inhabitants. In terms of physical land size, at just 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi) Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world, larger only than Vatican, Monaco and Nauru.  The Ellice Islands were administered as British protectorate by a Resident Commissioner; Tuvalu became fully independent within the Commonwealth on October 1, 1978. On September 5, 2000, Tuvalu became the 189th member of the United Nations.
Now the island Nation is in news as it has called a state of emergency due to severe shortage of fresh water.  Water was scarce in the capital, Funafuti, and a number of outlying islands  and there are official reports that the land has only a two-day supply left.  Crops are wilting, schools have shut their bathrooms and government officials are bathing in lagoons because of a severe shortage of fresh water in a swath of the South Pacific.  The island groups of Tuvalu and Tokelau have declared emergencies, relying on bottled water and seeking more desalination machines. Supplies are precariously low after a severe lack of rain in a region where underground reserves have been fouled by saltwater from rising seas that scientists have linked to climate change.  While nobody has gone thirsty yet, officials worry about the logistics of supplying everyone with enough water to survive and the potential health problems that might arise. And exactly how the islands will cope in the long term remains a question mark.  Six months of low rainfall have dried out the islands. Climate scientists say it's part of a cyclical Pacific weather pattern known as La Nina — and they predict the coming months will bring no relief, with the pattern expected to continue.  Rising sea levels are exacerbating the problem, as salt water seeps into underground supplies of fresh water that are drawn to the surface through wells.
New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully said his country was working with the Red Cross to deliver aid workers and supplies as quickly as possible.  A New Zealand defence service C-130 plane  reportedly carried two desalination units and a number of water containers.
It is not lonely; officials from Australia and New Zealand have said they are worried about other islands in the region, including Tokelau.  – Water will not last forever, if it is wasted in the present magnitude and this offers a great lesson for every Nation
Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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