Chembarambakkam and the three other reservoirs that have traditionally supplied Chennai are nearly all dry. Droughts in India are an annual problem, but this year’s water shortage has coincided with a fatal nationwide heatwave. The Tamil Nadu state government has been struggling to provide water to residents. Chennai’s last census, conducted in 2011 showed the city’s population at 4.6 million. Water is being brought directly into Chennai neighborhoods in trucks. Hundreds of thousands of residents stand in line for hours in soaring summer temperatures with cans and plastic containers.
“In (the) Chennai area, hotels and restaurants have shut down because we are not getting sufficient water and there is high demand,” a hotel owner said to media. Many wealthier families have taken to relying on expensive private water tankers. About 200,000 people die each year in the country due to inadequate supply or water contamination. Now water tanker trucks are being hijacked and violence is erupting between neighboring housing settlements. Complicating the issue are the devastating effects of climate change. People in Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad will soon be living in zero groundwater cities.