A delay in monsoon rains and record-high temperatures are leading to major water shortages in India.
Chennai, India’s sixth-largest city, with nearly 5 million residents, has been hit hardest by the water crisis. The four reservoirs that supply the city’s water are nearly dry, with only a few pockets of water left.
The city’s residents have resorted to using well water, which is usually not clean enough to drink, and water delivered by trucks. Many, however, cannot even afford water, whose price has jumped since the beginning of the shortage.
More than 550 people were arrested Wednesday in the city of Coimbatore as they protested outside the municipal government headquarters, accusing officials of negligence and mismanagement.
The future of India’s water supply is grim: The country predicts that 21 cities, including Chennai and the capital, New Delhi, will run out of groundwater by 2020, ultimately affecting about 100 million people.
The causes? The monsoon season has been growing weaker in South Asia, and rainfall has been below average in the region for the past five years.
India’s heat waves have also been growing more intense in the past decade. This year, the temperature has reached 123 degrees Fahrenheit, claiming at least 180 lives since May.
The government has created a new Ministry of Water Power on Thursday to tackle the water crisis. As Indian President Ram Nath Kovind has acknowledged, water shortages will be one of India’s biggest challenges of the 21st century.