By 2020, Chennai to run out of groundwater: Niti Aayog

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CHENNAI: Here is some bad news. Chennai will be among 21 cities which will run out of groundwater by 2020. Chennai Metrowater and Public Works Department are banking on desalination plants, rain water harvesting, check dams and restoration of water bodies to ward off the impending crisis.
Niti Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index, released this month, which highlights that Chennai will run out of ground water by 2020, has set off alarm bells. A Metrowater official said that the pressure on groundwater resources could be reduced once the two desalination plants with a joint capacity of 550 million litres per day (MLD) start functioning. Currently, more than 200 to 300 MLD of groundwater is extracted and there is a threat of water turning saline due to excess extraction.
The official said that both the desalination plants have got environmental clearance. The price bid for 150MLD desalination plan in Nemelli is to be opened after getting clearance from German funding agency KfW. Similarly, the 400MLD desalination plant, funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), will be ready by 2024, as a result the city will have 750 MLD of water on any given day.
The stress on groundwater will also be curtailed with the construction of 45MLD capacity Tertiary Treatment and Reverse Osmosis (TTRO) plant at Kodungaiyur and Koyambedu. It will soon be expanded to 60MLD. Thus, we will be having 120 MLD of treated water which will be given to industries, the official said.
The official also said the focus should also be on recharging groundwater through rain water harvesting, which helps conserve and augment the storage of groundwater aquifers, thereby improving the water table.
However, there is half-hearted measure in implementing rain water harvesting. Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority is yet to implement the recommendations by consultant Aakash Ganga Trust in the development regulations of Chennai Metropolitan Area through an amendment. The audit of rain water harvesting by the consultant was carried out following the direction of the then chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
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Similarly, a Water Resources Department official told Express that restoration of water bodies is crucial to ensure groundwater is protected. “They are restoring only 25 per cent of the water body. Seventy-five per cent is already encroached and polluted. If the entire water bodies are not restored, then it will not ensure water security,” the source cautioned.
Resource Management
• Tamil Nadu is ranked seventh by Niti Aayog’s Composite Water Index for its performance on Water Resource Management. Last year it was ranked sixth
• TN slipped in its ranking as it failed to utilise potential of its irrigation assets
• State is ranked sixth when it comes to source augmentation and restoration of water body
• There is something to cheer as Niti Aayog has ranked TN third when it comes to groundwater management
• Tamil Nadu is placed in the bottom of 17 non-Himalayan States when it comes to utilization and maintenance of irrigation systems and water efficiency in agriculture
• It is ranked second, next to Punjab, in watershed management
• The State is ranked sixth when it comes to policy and governance
• TN is ranked on top when it comes to percentage of areas of major groundwater re-charging identified and mapped for TN
• Nineteen out of 24 Index states reported charging for electricity to tube/ borewells, with only Telangana and Tamil Nadu-and three North-Eastern Himalayan States-Sikkim, Nagaland, and Tripura- still providing free electricity to farmers.

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