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Water Midsummer Nightmare

The dryness is so stark, it could almost catch fire. Are our cities hurtling towards water riots?

Water Midsummer Nightmare
Water Midsummer Nightmare
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Come summer and it's the same story all over urban India: of taps drying up, or sputtering forth in the wee hours, of residents queuing up to grab their rations from tankers, of whole new colonies furiously digging deeper to tap whatever remains of the fast-receding groundwater, of an unscrupulous private water-tanker cottage industry that charges a fortune for supplies which they illegally tap. In the end, the urban water crisis is also about defiled rivers, poisoned and over-exploited aquifers, settlements swallowing ponds and lakes, inequitable distribution and inefficient management, profligate consumption, and swelling demographics.

No wonder our cities are beginning to resemble deserts. A 1997 Asian Development Bank study ranked Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai among the four worst cities in Asia in terms of water availability. Contrast Delhi and Chennai's four hours of supply every day to Beijing's 24, Kuala Lumpur's 24, and Manila's 18. (These startling figures, however, hide the inequities of water distribution. Although Delhi's official per capita water supply is about 200 litres a day, about 30 per cent of the city's 12 million people get less than 25 litres per person per day—the international norm is 150 litres.) Bangaloreans get piped water on alternate days, and Mumbai has a water shortfall of 500 million litres a day. Chennai's reservoirs, the city's main watersource, are charged this year thanks to adequate rains and a generous contribution from the Krishna river, but the city continues to be at the mercy of a good monsoon.

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