Veeranam Lake not the solution
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Veeranam Lake not the solution

The state government has revived the Veeranam project under which water from the huge lake will travel to Chennai, about 200 kilometres away. But this is a pipe dream. For the lake to overflow, it has to receive surplus water from Cauvery - which has been bone dry for two successive years.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2003 18:07 IST

The Jayalalithaa government has revived the Veeranam project under which water from the huge Veeranam Lake in Cuddalore district, about 200 kilometres from Chennai, would be brought to Chennai city through pipes. To costing a whopping Rs 700 crores, the project is touted by the present government as a lasting solution to Chennaiites parched throats.

But most tax-papers know that this water-project is yet another pipe dream. For the Veeranam lake to overflow and supply water to Chennai it has to receive surplus water from Cauvery (Kaveri) - which has been bone dry for two successive years and is also the subject of an intense inter-state dispute.

"When Cauvery water cannot reach Mettur Dam on an assured basis how can its surplus reach Veeranam at the tail end. This is just waste of public money," contends CS Kuppuraj a former PWD Chief Engineer who has challenged the viability of the project in the High Court.

After the drought in 1983 Indira Gandhi revived the Krishna Water scheme under which a canal from Somaseela Dam in Andhra Pradesh would bring 10 tmc of water to Tamil Nadu every year. After more than two decades and spending more than Rs.1,500 crores the project remains incomplete since crucial link between Kandaleru Reservoir on the Andhra border and Somaseela Dam is yet to be completed.

The surplus water that Kandaleru reservoir receives during the monsoons alone had been diverted to Chennai and here too much of the water seeped into the ground or was illegally pumped out by Andhra farmers en route. In effect Chennai has not received even 4 tmc in a year since the project went "on stream" in 1996. In between rulers have toyed with the idea of desalination plants and even moving the capital out of Chennai.

But none of them have ever given serious thought to the most commonsensical approach of creating more reservoirs around the city to store surplus waters during a good monsoon. On the other hand many lakebeds are being encroached by real estate developers and land sharks creating a recipe for further disaster on the waterfront.

The only positive side to the water crisis has been the growing awareness of Chenaaiites to water conservation measures. Though Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) is mandated for new buildings even existing house owners have taken it up in a big way. "A sustained campaign by the state's water agencies has convinced people to realize the benefits of RWH. And in many places it has brought down salinity in groundwater and revived disused wells," pointed out K Dheenadayalan, MD of Metrowater.

Unless this initiative by the citizens is matched by the state government in coming up with viable projects for Chennai, water would continue to be this metro's weakest infrastructural link. And Jayalalithaa's promise of making this city a dreamland would remain just a dream.

Srinivasa Prasad

First Published: Jun 04, 2003 18:07 IST