From Local to Hyperlocal—The Water Conundrum

It’s been almost two weeks since the students at the Asian College of Journalism have settled down and they are already witnessing first-hand the infamous water shortage problem of Chennai. “It’s not only ACJ but Chennai has a water problem as well. It does get difficult for us to store water in our buckets and use it productively. Also, the water has a weird muddy colour to it,” says Oindrilla, a student at ACJ. She further states that the water is rather salty and causes a lot of throat problems for many. Besides this, students have also reported being late for class because of no water flow in the mornings.

The water shortage problem also poses a major inconvenience to those with the six-room occupancy. “The water doesn’t start till 7 or 8 am, and there are six of us in one room so it gets very inconvenient,” mentions Harsh.

However, this isn’t a one-sided issue of negligence on the part of the management. Some students do feel that it is up to them to take responsibility to conserve and utilise water judiciously. “It’s actually up to us to save water because there are a lot of people who leave the taps open when the water is not running and when the water comes on again, the whole tank empties,” says Oindrilla.

ACJ is equipped with a motor that supplies water throughout the college as well as two to three sams or storage tanks. The administration states that water scarcity is bound to occur—there are nearly 150 students residing in the hostel and the faculty comes to the college between 9 and 5, so water usage is at its peak during the working hours. Regarding students leaving the taps open, the administration says, “We haven’t put up any notice so we tell students to pass on the message to keep the taps closed when they leave their bathrooms.”

This issue reflects the wider water problem that Chennai faces. In June, there were media reports of a reduction in the groundwater table. “There is water shortage mostly in the months of summer when the metro water system is not as effective as you’d want it to be, but people have circumvented it by installing bore wells wherein they harvest the ground water. But that again leads to depleting water table levels,” says Zahaan a student at ACJ and a local resident.

Eventually, it comes down to how we conserve water and the environment at large, and this effort has to stem from individuals, governments and institutions.

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