Telepolis (Heise Online): "Water crisis India: We get what we deserve"

July 01, 2019

Water crisis India: "We get what we deserve"

June 29, 2019  Gilbert Kolonko

Once a year, India is reminded that the disaster is already here. It is largely self-inflicted

The fact that it is hot in India and the asphalt melts generated headlines in only a few German media this summer , because that's it at this time every year.

But the South Indian metropolis Chennai made it into the news for us. There, the water for the 10 million inhabitants now come by train from the neighboring state of Kerala, because its own water resources are used up .

It is true that the monsoon in Chennai, which is arriving too late this year, is contributing to the water problem, but the local water crisis also has predominantly local causes: the formerly more than 200 square kilometers of wetlands just outside the city had shrunk 'moderately' until 1980 an area of ​​186.3 km ² . Today, however, they are only 15 percent of their former size, as a study by the CareEarth Trust shows .

The main reasons are the boom of IT companies in the south of Chennai and, in general, the growth of the real estate market. For example, 35 percent of the water for the growing population of Chennai is pumped in from Lake Veeranam 235 kilometers away . In addition, massive groundwater is tapped. Due to the congestion of the metropolis, the groundwater levels have not replenished and should be completely empty in the near future .

"Learn from our mistakes"

Heavy flooding in Chennai in 2015 caused major flooding . In the past, wetlands, with their lakes and tributaries, took up much of the water, easing the flood damage and acting as a reservoir.

Today, those responsible do not even take the opportunity to use larger amounts of rainwater. Although efforts have been made to store rainwater in Chennai since 2001, the government has not been able to control compliance with newly created laws, such as building regulations. Although water is stored in exemplary cases , it remains unsystematic.

"The government of Tamil Nadu needs a water plan for the state and for Chennai," says Dr. Avilash Roul of Chennai's Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) opposite Telepolis continues: "Chennai needs 1,200 million liters of water every day, but currently the government can only deliver 550 million liters, and by 2030 Chennai will even reach 2,100 million liters per day need."

Then Roul explains why the government finally needs to share its collected water data with the public:

Many different organizations are trying to solve the water crisis. On a small scale, the German GIZ or the Dutch government, which itself carries out some water projects. The IIT Institute is also trying to do its part in solving the problem, although it itself has problems and there is not enough water on its campus. But in order for these projects not to collide with those of the big players, the various development banks, it requires a master plan of the government.

Avilash Roul, Indian Institute of Technology

Roul warns to recapture Chennai's wetlands bit by bit and gives the state of West Bengal an advice: "Learn from our mistakes and stop the destruction of the wetlands in Kolkata", to conclude by emphasizing that not only Chennai has a plan for coping the water crisis, but the whole country.

The latest national water plan for India dates back to 2012.

Avilash Roul

There is no plan in West Bengal either. As repeatedly reported on Telepolis, every day in Kolkata another piece of the wetlands is sacrificed to economic growth . Although the wetlands of the capital of West Bengal purify the wastewater of millions of people and moderate the climate.

According to a World Bank study, Kolkata will in future be one of ten cities that will be most affected by the climate crisis - and the authors even mention that the poor suffer the most .

2030: 40 percent of the population no longer have access to drinking water

But not only in Bengal or Tamil Nadu have those responsible closed their eyes for years; 21 Indian cities are expected to run out of groundwater by 2020, including the capital New Delhi, according to a study by the government-affiliated think tank Niti Aayog. The study predicts that in 2030, 40 percent of the Indian population would no longer have access to drinking water.

"We get what we deserve," says activist Pratip Nag from Kolkata:

India is no country innocent, reading and writing ignorant natives - in the big cities 90 percent of the population is literate. But it is precisely these allegedly educated city dwellers from the rising middle class who are interested only in their own progress, in addition to consumption and the accumulation of luxury goods. Two months ago, they again elected a man as Prime Minister, who has nothing to offer except populism and nationalism.

Pratip Nag

Nag argues that Narendra Modi has done nothing to stop the pollution of the rivers or the air or tackle another of India's elemental problems, citing as an example India's highest unemployment rate in 47 years .

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Quoted: Avilash Roul @Telepolis (Heise Online), June 29, 2019