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As water crisis looms, Kerala pins hope on monsoon

LiveMint logoLiveMint 15-05-2017 Nidheesh M.K.

Thiruvananthapuram/Bengaluru: Kerala, the land of 44 rivers, is running so dry that a few days ago it looked like its reservoirs will have no water left to supply even to its capital city, Thiruvananthapuram.

Thanks to showers received in the last few days, the situation has improved a bit. Still, there is only just enough water left to sustain the city until the onset of the monsoon in early June, says Kerala water authority superintending engineer Leena Kumari.

Citizens are worried. Some restaurants in the capital are even offering a 15% discount on take-away food, so that they can save water on washing dishes. The situation is also dire in the rest of the state, which is reeling under one of its worst droughts in a century. Experts have warned that if it doesn’t rain soon, the state will have a crisis on its hands.

Average water levels in its biggest reservoirs are down to 19% of their normal storage, from the usual 35% in summer, says Sekhar L. Kuriakose, a water expert and member-secretary at the state disaster management authority.

It’s not just the reservoirs; the drought has either caused or accelerated the death of small lakes, ponds and wells.

For instance, development economist and finance minister Thomas Isaac points to the state of Varattar lake, once a perennial freshwater source linking two rivers in the south. For sure, it isn’t just the drought but other activities, including construction, that have killed the lake, he says.

In a sign of the concern the water shortage has evoked, regional news channel News 18 Keralam set aside everything else to discuss only the impending crisis on Sunday.

“This is a real crisis,” said one of its anchors, seeing a reporter standing on a patch of dry land which was once part of the Sasthamkotta lake, the biggest fresh water lake in Kerala used for drinking water by 700,000 people.

The state government is trying its best to avert a crisis, said water minister Mathew T. Thomas. Arrangements are afoot to bring water to cities like Thiruvananthapuram, he said. Also, the government has capped water supply to industries and barred the digging of new borewells, he said.

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