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Mihir Sharma

India’s Water Crisis Is Man-Made

One of its largest cities has virtually run dry and it won’t be the last if the country doesn’t change its habits quickly. 

Chennai’s lakes are empty. 

Chennai’s lakes are empty. 

Photographer: Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images

One of India’s largest cities, Chennai, is dealing with a crippling crisis: It has run out of water. In the middle of a particularly hot summer, the four lakes that supply the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu have dried up; together they contain just 1% of the volume they did last year. Residents don’t have enough water to drink, bathe or wash clothes. People are working from home; malls have closed their bathrooms; and restaurants have shut their doors.

The natural instinct is to blame the situation on climate change and, indeed, the last monsoon’s rains were especially weak. While that’s certainly played a role, however, Chennai’s is largely a man-made disaster – one that more Indian metropolises are soon to suffer no matter the weather.