July 11, 2019 / 5:05 PM / 10 days ago

Water train set to relieve drought-hit Indian city

A worker fills a tanker train with water, which will be transported and supplied to drought-hit city of Chennai, at Jolarpettai railway station in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India, July 11, 2019. REUTERS/P. Ravikumar

JOLARPETTAI, India (Reuters) - Indian authorities on Thursday filled tanks with water and loaded them onto a train in the southern state of Tamil Nadu to supply its manufacturing capital Chennai where reservoirs have run dry.

Technicians in the railway station at Jolarpettai, located over 135 miles (217 km) from Chennai, worked from early on Thursday to fill fifty wagons with 50,000 liters of water each, sourced from a south Indian river.

The unusual water train, expected to reach Chennai on Friday, will provide much needed relief to the carmaking center dubbed “India’s Detroit.”

The shortage has forced some schools to shut, companies to ask employees to work from home, and hotels to ration water for guests.

Bad water management and lack of rainfall mean all four reservoirs that supply Chennai have run virtually dry this summer. Other Indian cities, including the capital New Delhi and technology hub Bengaluru, are also grappling with water shortages.

The train was supposed to reach Chennai on Thursday, but leakages in valves connecting the tank to the railway station forced authorities to push back plans by a day, officials at the railway station said.

People living on the outskirts are blocking roads and laying siege to tanker lorries because they fear their water reserves are being sacrificed so city dwellers, businesses and luxury hotels do not run out.

Ground water levels in Chennai and in regions around the city have been falling due to lack of rainfall. Like many Indian cities, Chennai’s growth over the past 20 years has been rapid and haphazard.

Writing by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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