Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVII No. 2, May 1-15, 2017

Water for the summer

(By Dr. Felix Ryan – UN water expert)

Ground realities indicate that Chennai will not get adequate water from the Krishna River. The southern parts of Andhra Pradesh abutting Chennai are drought-prone during summer. Andhra has to cater to the requirements of its own people and only then to her neighbour’s when possible.

Moreover, the Krishna Water project was conceived more to benefit the dry Telangana region and not the people of Chennai.

Distillation NOT Desalination

The late President Abdul Kalam and many other scientists world over have repeatedly been saying that humanity has to depend on the sea for water and survival. Indeed, sea water is better than no water and saline agriculture is better than chemical agriculture.

Governments must teach people to help themselves with simple way of distilling sea or saline water. Through several simple ways, people are already converting sea water into safe drinking water on a kitchen scale and as much on a community scale.

A large-scale distillation plant is working successfully for the past 25 years in Saudi Arabia, south of Judah.

We should promote distillation which eliminates heavy metals, dissolved salts and toxic waste and not desalination which, by and large, removes only salt molecules and a small percentage of metals, dissolved salts and other impurities. Sea water must be made accessible to people; after all, much of our population lives within 100 km of the coastal belt.

– Dr. F.R.

It is reported that the official cost of getting water from Neyveli is Rs. 400 per 1,000 litres. However, if overheads, wear and tear of tankers, accident losses, water treatment cost, cost of maintaining the treatment system, loss of water in the pipe lines, evaporation losses and cost of disposing of the silt are taken into account, the real cost of one litre of Metro water transported from Neyveli or Erode will be more than Rs. 2, though officially this water costs one rupee per litre. The truth is far from it.

Even after spending two rupees per litre of water from Neyveli or Erode the quality of water remains far from the standards set by WHO and BIS. There is a need to carry out a realistic appraisal of various knee jerk schemes to deal with the drinking water crisis.

Hong Kong has been one of the most water-deficient countries in the world. Finding that 40 per cent of treated water was being used in toilets and for washing pavements and roads, she introduced the dual system and laid twin water mains – one for treated water and the other for filtered sea water, and solved her water problem to a large extent. Sea water is better than no water. We should study the feasibility of such a project for Chennai.

Desalinating water by the RO method as the Government of Tamil Nadu is doing now in Ramanathapuram is cost-intensive and does not remove heavy metals and dissolved salts. Sea water distillation as done in Saudi Arabia, Arizona or Israel is one of the answers to our drinking water problems. The Rio summit resolved that sea water must be exploited in all possible ways by countries facing drinking water crisis.

This summer, water supply is going to be more acute in Chennai than last summer due to salt, sand and sediments blocking the flow of water inside the water mains and due to inadequate percolation during the recent rains. Only roof water let into open wells will adequately recharge the water table and not the water let into shallow percolation pits.

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