Wednesday, August 4, 2021
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All about the water in TN

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]inally, Cauvery River water gave some relief to Tamil Nadu (TN); however this action has left Karnataka in turmoil. TN was facing water crises much ahead of rains. If this year there won’t be any satisfactory rains, then the state has to depend on neighbouring states. TN always had issues with water, sometimes its water scarcity, sometimes floods and Tsunami. This time it’s worst ever. Nature is unkind and government too is very inefficient in crisis management. Recently, we had seen water stagnation and lack of drainage which caused flood in Chennai. The torrential rains this time magnified the problem manifold. I hope the restoration plans by authorities take note of the need to revive/resuscitate the natural water bodies and do not yield to other pressures.

Like laymen, experts are also blaming the construction boom and unchecked cutting of mangroves. The fact is that only two small rivers are draining the rain water into the sea. The Buckingham canal mostly dumps the city rain water in the Adayar River. The Adayar River passes through the runway of the Chennai Airport causing the flooding at airport. The best way to tackle the periodical flooding and water scarcity is to divert the water from Adayar River west of airport by creating a weir and deepening the river and creating multiple canals like streets. Unless the water level in the rivers is kept low by diverging the rain water will not drain quickly from the city. Buckingham canal is an artificial canal built by British, so that they can ship Andhra’s products through Chennai port to their country. It is a canal which was built to loot Indian wealth.

Environmentalists said that the floods in Chennai are an impact of climate change and the “unprecedented deluge” that the city has witnessed is a reminder of increasing frequency of such freak weather events across the Indian subcontinent. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said that Chennai could have fared better if it had protected and preserved its natural water bodies and drainage channels. However, both the said problems are related to excessive construction which leads to poor recharge of groundwater aquifers and blocking of natural drainage systems. While, Chennai has been struggling to meet its water needs and has been even desalinating sea water at a huge expense, it allowed its aquifers to get depleted said the experts. CSE’s research shows that Chennai had more than 600 water bodies in the 1980s, but a master plan published in 2008 said that only a fraction of them are in healthy condition.

According to records of the state’s Water Resources Department, the area of 19 major lakes has shrunk from a total of 1,130 hectares (ha) in the 1980s to around 645 ha in the early 2000s, reducing their storage capacity. The drains that carry surplus water from tanks to other wetlands have also been encroached upon. The analysis also shows that the stormwater drains constructed to drain flood waters are clogged and required immediate desiltation and Chennai has only 855 kms of stormwater drains against 2,847 kms of urban roads.

In November last year, the city had received 1,218 mm of rain, which was almost three times more than the average the city receives. A 2006 study by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune had said that extreme precipitation events were increasing in frequency and intensity in India during the period between 1950 to the 2000s. CSE’s climate change experts point out that while detailed attribution studies needed to be done to find out more links between the Chennai catastrophe and climate change, existing scientific studies do establish the possibility of a connection.

Jayalalitha pointed out to her repeated requests for the formation of the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee. The sharing of waters of the Cauvery River has been the source of a serious conflict between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The genesis of this conflict rests in two agreements in 1892 and 1924 between the erstwhile Madras Presidency and Princely State of Mysore. The 802 kilometres (498 mi) Cauvery River has 44,000 basin area in Tamil Nadu and 32,000 basin area in Karnataka. Decades of negotiations between the parties bore no fruit. The Government of India then constituted a tribunal in 1990 to look into the matter. After hearing arguments of all the parties involved for the next 16 years, the tribunal delivered its final verdict on 5 February 2007. In its verdict, the tribunal allocated 419 billion cubic.ft (12 of water annually to Tamil Nadu and 270 billion cubic.ft (7.6 to Karnataka; 30 billion cu.ft (0.8 of Cauvery River water to Kerala and 7 billion cu.ft (0.2 to Puducherry. The dispute however, appears not to have concluded, as all three states and Union territory deciding to file review petitions seeking clarifications and possible renegotiation of the order. Soon after the tribunal was set up, Tamil Nadu demanded a mandatory injunction on Karnataka for the immediate release of water and other reliefs. This was dismissed by the tribunal. Tamil Nadu, now went back to the Supreme Court which directed the tribunal to reconsider the state’s plea.

Karnataka was thus forced to accept the interim award and widespread demonstrations and violence broke out in parts of the state and Tamil Nadu following this. Thousands of Tamil families had to flee from Bangalore in fear of being attacked and lynched by pro-Kannada activists with the behest of the state government. The violence and show down, mostly centered in the Tamil populated parts of Bangalore, lasted for nearly a month and most schools and educational institutions in the city remained closed during this period.

That time too, Tamil Nadu was stalled over unbalanced water and floods across the state.

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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