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Why the wells in Chennai dried up?

The ongoing tension between world leaders for ‘not doing enough’ in the conservation of the environment is giving ample stuff to environment analysts for News Hour debates. News broke out in India regarding a city of Tamil Nadu, Chennai which is not able to quench the thirst of its residents. The reservoirs of the city are the major sources of drinking water and its dwindling levels have left the city in daily struggle. But has the situation been always same in Chennai?

History of Water Management in Tamil Nadu

After the steep drought in 2001-2003, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa government set an ordinance which mandated that all buildings in Tamil Nadu fix rainwater harvesting and store water. The data provided by the website of Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply & Sewage Board shows that a regular pattern in the levels of all 4 reservoirs of Chennai from 2005-2012. But the numbers started to give up in the later part of the 2010s. Environment analysts say that poor rainwater harvesting and shortage in rainfall are the major factors. Let’s see.

Major takeaways from the charts:

  • From 2005 to 2012, each of the four reservoirs formed the same pattern. The sharp rain recharged the reservoirs in the months of August and September only to reach lesser levels in the months of June and July.
  • From 2013 to 2019, the water levels recorded rock bottom in many phases of the period. In fact, Cholavaram and Poondi recorded multiple ‘zero’ levels during the same.
  • From the graph of rainfall in various reservoir regions, we can see that Chembarambakkam has always received maximum rainfall among the 4 reservoirs. No major changes in the distribution except rainfall decreased in 2012-13. Also, the regions received best rainfall from 2015 to 2017.


Many environment analyst and officials were quick to include less rainfall as a major factor adding upto the drying of lakes but the graph and statistics have proven to be different. Overall rainfall has always affected the waterbodies all over the planet but mismanagement or no management of the rainfall is a greater curse. The city of Chennai was always on the brink of this difficult situation but could get far worse if the rain gods do not show mercy. After all, it is never a good sign for humans to look above and hope.