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Floodwaters in Chennai, on Dec. 1, 2015. In the winter of 2015, Chennai suffered its worst inundation in a century, severely disrupting flights, train and bus services and forcing the postponment of half-yearly school exams.

Floodwaters in Chennai, on Dec. 1, 2015. In the winter of 2015, Chennai suffered its worst inundation in a century, severely disrupting flights, train and bus services and forcing the postponment of half-yearly school exams.

Source: Strdel/AFP/Getty Images

Green
Indefensible

How One of the World’s Wettest Major Cities Ran Out of Water

Climate change, urban growth and poor planning have left Chennai with both too little and too much water.

Climate change is bringing rising sea levels and increased flooding to some cities around the world and drought and water shortages to others. For the 11 million inhabitants of Chennai, it’s both.

India’s sixth-largest city gets an average of about 1,400mm (55 inches) of rainfall a year, more than twice the amount that falls on London and almost four times the level of Los Angeles. Yet in 2019 it hit the headlines for being one of the first major cities in the world to run out of water—trucking in 10 million liters a day to hydrate its population. This year, it had the wettest January in decades.