It is becoming increasingly clear that tough decisions will have to be made if Chennai's severe water service delivery problems are to be solved effectively. Current approaches to tackling water-related challenges are based more on crisis management than strategic planning processes that are based on the principles of adaptive management and stakeholder participation. Huge amounts of funding are being wasted annually on programmes of work that at best are providing temporary solutions and at worst are causing major damage to the resource base and the livelihood systems of people living in Chennai's peri-urban areas and the more rural areas that are also being used as sources of water supply. Whilst being good on paper, current legislation is not being implemented and, to all intents and purposes, this legislation commands minimal political and societal support. More worrying still, is the fact that institutions tasked with the responsibility of maintaining Chennai's water services are not respecting existing legislation.
Although the situation is grim, there is much that can be done if there is sufficient political will and cross-party support. Or put another way, long-term improvements in Chennai's water services will not be possible if the political parties in power ignore existing legislation and/or fail to seek cross-party and stakeholder support for changes to water-related legislation. It is also crucially important that there is good alignment of legislation and policies across the many different sectors that have the potential to impact on water supply and demand (e.g. agriculture, power, industry, environment etc). This paper reviews the current status of Chennai's water services and current approaches to water governance. Existing water-related legislation is described and some recommendations are made both for improving the legislation and for ensuring that the legislation contributes more effectively to better water services in Chennai and surrounding peri-urban and rural areas.
Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Chennai, India, 12 pp.