Month: February 2024

One of the world’s biggest cities may be just months away from running out of water

Photo Courtesy: Henry Romero/Reuter

Mexico City CNN —  Alejandro Gomez has been without proper running water for more than three months. Sometimes it comes on for an hour or two, but only a small trickle, barely enough to fill a couple of buckets. Then nothing for many days.

Gomez, who lives in Mexico City’s Tlalpan district, doesn’t have a big storage tank so can’t get water truck deliveries — there’s simply nowhere to store it. Instead, he and his family eke out what they can buy and store.

When they wash themselves, they capture the runoff to flush the toilet. It’s hard, he told CNN. “We need water, it’s essential for everything.”

Water shortages are not uncommon in this neighborhood, but this time feels different, Gomez said. “Right now, we are getting this hot weather. It’s even worse, things are more complicated.”

Mexico City, a sprawling metropolis of nearly 22 million people and one of the world’s biggest cities, is facing a severe water crisis as a tangle of problems — including geography, chaotic urban development, and leaky infrastructure — are compounded by the impacts of climate change.

Years of abnormally low rainfall, longer dry periods, and high temperatures have added stress to a water system already straining to cope with increased demand. Authorities have been forced to introduce significant restrictions on the water pumped from reservoirs.

“Several neighborhoods have suffered from a lack of water for weeks, and there are still four months left for the rains to start,” said Christian Domínguez Sarmiento, an atmospheric scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Politicians are downplaying any sense of crisis, but some experts say the situation has now reached such critical levels that Mexico City could be barreling towards “day zero” in a matter of months — where the taps run dry for huge swaths of the city.

Historic lows

Densely populated Mexico City stretches out across a high-altitude lake bed, around 7,300 feet above sea level. It was built on clay-rich soil — into which it is now sinking — and is prone to earthquakes and highly vulnerable to climate change. It’s perhaps one of the last places anyone would choose to build a megacity today.

The Aztecs chose this spot to build their city of Tenochtitlan in 1325, when it was a series of lakes. They built on an island, expanding the city outwards, constructing networks of canals and bridges to work with the water.

But when the Spanish arrived in the early 16th century, they tore down much of the city, drained the lakebed, filled in canals and ripped out forests. They saw “water as an enemy to overcome for the city to thrive,” said Jose Alfredo Ramirez, an architect and co-director of Groundlab, a design and policy research organization.

Photo Courtesy : Cesar Rodriguez/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Their decision paved the way for many of Mexico City’s modern problems. Wetlands and rivers have been replaced with concrete and asphalt. In the rainy season, it floods. In the dry season, it’s parched.

Around 60% of Mexico City’s water comes from its underground aquifer, but this has been so over-extracted that the city is sinking at a frightening rate — around 20 inches a year, according to recent research. And the aquifer is not being replenished anywhere near fast enough. The rainwater rolls off the city’s hard, impermeable surfaces, rather than sinking into the ground.

The rest of the city’s water is pumped vast distances uphill from sources outside the city, in an incredibly inefficient process, during which around 40% of the water is lost through leaks.

The Cutzamala water system, a network of reservoirs, pumping stations, canals and tunnels, supplies about 25% of the water used by the Valley of Mexico, which includes Mexico City. But severe drought has taken its toll. Currently, at around 39% of capacity, it’s been languishing at a historic low.

“It’s almost half of the amount of water that we should have,” said Fabiola Sosa-Rodríguez, head of economic growth and environment at the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico City.

In October, Conagua, the country’s national water commission, announced it would restrict water from Cutzamala by 8% “to ensure the supply of drinking water to the population given the severe drought.”

Just a few weeks later, officials significantly tightened restrictions, reducing the water supplied by the system by nearly 25%, blaming extreme weather conditions.

“Measures will have to be taken to be able to distribute the water that Cutzamala has over time, to ensure that it does not run out,” Germán Arturo Martínez Santoyo, the director general of Conagua, said in a statement at the time.

The exposed banks of the Villa Victoria Dam, part of the Cutzamala System, in Villa Victoria, Mexico on January 26, 2024.

Photo Courtesy :Raquel Cunha/Reuters

Around 60% of Mexico is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, according to a February report. Nearly 90% of Mexico City is in severe drought — and it’s set to get worse with the start of the rainy season still months away.

“We are around the middle of the dry season with sustained temperature increases expected until April or May,” said June Garcia-Becerra, an assistant professor in engineering at the University of Northern British Columbia.

Natural climate variability heavily affects this part of Mexico. Three years of La Niña brought drought to the region, and then the arrival of El Niño last year helped deliver a painfully short rainy season that failed to replenish the reservoirs.

But the long-term trend of human-caused global warming hums in the background, fueling longer droughts and fiercer heat waves, as well as heavier rains when they do arrive.

“Climate change has made droughts increasingly severe due to the lack of water,” said UNAM’s Sarmiento. Added to this, high temperatures “have caused the water that is available in the Cutzamala system to evaporate,” she said.

Last summer saw brutal heat waves roil large parts of the country, which claimed at least 200 lives. These heat waves would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change, according to an analysis by scientists.

The climate impacts have collided with the growing pains of a fast-expanding city. As the population booms, experts say the centralized water system has not kept pace.

‘Day zero?’

The crisis has set up a fierce debate about whether the city will reach a “day zero,” where the Cutzamala system falls to such low levels that it will be unable to provide any water to the city’s residents.

Local media widely reported in early February that an official from a branch of Conagua said that without significant rain, “day zero” could arrive as early as June 26.

But authorities have since sought to assure residents there will be no day zero. In a press conference on February 14, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that work was underway to address the water problems. Mexico City’s mayor, Martí Batres Guadarrama, said in a recent press conference that reports of day zero were “fake news” spread by political opponents.

Conagua declined CNN’s interview requests and did not answer specific questions on the prospect of a day zero.

But many experts warn of a spiraling crisis. Mexico City could run out of water before the rainy season arrives if it carries on using it in the same way, Sosa-Rodríguez said. “It’s probable that we will face a day zero,” she added.

This doesn’t mean a complete collapse of the water system, she said, because the city isn’t dependent on just one source. It won’t be the same as when Cape Town in South Africa came perilously close to running totally dry in 2018 following a severe multi-year drought. “Some groups will still have water,” she said, “but most of the people won’t.”

Raúl Rodríguez Márquez, president of the non-profit Water Advisory Council, said he doesn’t believe the city will reach a day zero this year — but, he warned, it will if changes are not made.

“We are in a critical situation, and we could reach an extreme situation in the next few months,” he told CNN.

‘I don’t think anyone is prepared’

For nearly a decade, Sosa-Rodríguez said she has been warning officials of the danger of a day zero for Mexico City.

She said the solutions are clear: Better wastewater treatment would both increase water availability and decrease pollution, while rainwater harvesting systems could capture and treat the rain, and allow residents to reduce their reliance on the water network or water trucks by 30%.

Fixing leaks would make the system much more efficient and reduce the volume of water that has to be extracted from the aquifer. And nature-based solutions, such as restoring rivers and wetlands, would help provide and purify water, she said, with the added advantage of greening and cooling the city.

In a statement on its website, Conagua said it is undertaking a 3-year project to install, develop and improve water infrastructure to help the city cope with decreases in the Cutzamala system, including adding new wells and commissioning water treatment plants.

But in the meantime, tensions are rising as some residents are forced to cope with shortages, while others — often in the wealthier enclaves — remain mostly unaffected.

“There is a clear unequal access to water in the city and this is related to people’s income,” Sosa-Rodríguez said. While day zero might not be here yet for the whole of Mexico City, some neighborhoods have been grappling with it for years, she added.

Photo Courtesy : Henry Romero/Reuters

Amanda Martínez, another resident of the city’s Tlalpan district, said for people here, water shortages are nothing new. She and her family often have to pay more than $100 for a tank of water from one of the city’s water trucks. But it’s getting worse. Sometimes more than two weeks can go by without water and she fears what may be coming, she told CNN.

“I don’t think anyone is prepared.”

Neerain is proud to republish this blog for spreading awareness about situation of water, for our stake holders. Credit whatsoever goes to the Author.

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Author : Laura Paddison, Jack Guy and Fidel Gutiérrez

Published On: 25, February, 2024


Rainwater harvesting at your home in four simple steps

Photo courtesy: Pinterest

Every now and then we read reports on rapidly depleting groundwater levels in many parts of India. The problem is further exacerbated during some parts of the year when water becomes scarce across the length and breadth of the country. Over the years, India has emerged as the largest user of groundwater in the world for irrigation, industrial, and domestic needs. The country’s burgeoning population is further putting a lot of pressure on its water resources.

We can take a few little steps to reduce our dependence on groundwater. To start with, we could save rainwater at our home or building in an effective manner without spending too much money. By using this method, an average Indian family can easily harvest enough rainwater to meet its daily needs of water for washing, bathing, and even drinking. Following are some of the simple steps you need to take to start rainwater harvesting at your home or building:

1. Cleaning your catchment area: This is the place where most of the rainwater is received and can be diverted from. First of all, you need to clean your roof or catchment area to prevent any dirt or other unnecessary materials from contaminating the water. Over the years, rooftop rainwater harvesting has emerged as one of the most popular options in India as it is easily doable.

2. Redirecting water with pipes: Rainwater will be redirected towards the container through PVC pipes. These PVC pipes or gutters come in cylindrical shapes and can be easily attached to the drain pipes on the roof to redirect the water towards the storage tank.

3. Installing rain separator and storage tank filter: The next step is to install the first rain separator or the washout pipe. It is basically a simple valve to block the entry of water into the tank while cleaning the roof and also during the initial stages of raining, when the water could be of poor quality due to air pollution and other factors. This valve requires cleaning after every rain to discharge wastewater or dust-filled water, which we usually get during the start of the rainy season. Besides that, you need to install another filter right on the storage tank to get clean water. This filter is also used to prevent the entry of dust and other small particles into the storage tank.

Photo courtesy: The Economic Times

4. Overflow pipe for the extra water: You also need to install an overflow pipe on top of your storage tank to release excess water. It is recommended that you put your storage tank at an elevated place to prevent any sort of bacterial or fungi growth around it and also for keeping it away from the reach of stray dogs or other animals.

Neerain is proud to republish this article for spreading awareness about situation of water, for our stakeholders. Credit whatsoever goes to the Author.

This article is published by: – The Economic Times

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Publish On: : Aug 16, 2021

Salinity, fluoride, iron, and lead levels high in A’bad groundwater

Photo Courtesy ; Vecteezy

Ahmedabad : Data from the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti shows that more than half of Gujarat districts are affected by salinity, fluorides, and nitrites in their groundwater. Ahmedabad district is afflicted by five of the six issues flagged by the Union ministry, according to a response by Ashwini Kumar Choubey, MoS (environment, forests, and climate change), in response to a question by Rajya Sabha member Parimal Nathwani. Groundwater in Ahmedabad was found to have excessive levels of salinity, fluoride, nitrate, iron, and lead, the data shows. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCBP) using National Water Quality Monitoring Programme (NWMP) data for 2023 including data from 88 monitoring wells in Gujarat stated that73 of these wells were monitored in 2023 and the water in 52 of them were found to have fluoride content within safe limits, while the other 21 were ‘non-complying’. The data shows that of the 33 districts in Gujarat, 28 have relatively high salinity levels, 30 have high fluoride levels, 32 nitrites, 12 arsenic, 14 iron and one has excessive lead. While salinity renders water hard to use for drinking and irrigation, the other ions can cause several health issues, experts said. However, the overall trend is an improvement in groundwater levels and improved water quality due to availability of surface water via the Narmada canals. Another set of data, shared by Bishweswar Tudu, MoS (Jal Shakti) in response to Keshari Devi Patel in the Lok Sabha, shows that 51 ‘assessment units’ or wells in Gujarat fall in the OCS(overexploited, critical and semi-critical) categories. The data shows that Mehsana district had the most such assessment units, 10, and the district is among 30 in India that had 10 or more such units. It was followed by Banaskantha with 9 units.

Photo Courtesy : Times Of India

NeeRain is proud to republish this blog to spread awareness about the situation of water, for our stakeholders. Credit whatsoever goes to the Author.

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Times Of India

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Author : Parth Shashtri

Published On : 13 Feb, 2023


Rainwater harvesting a lifeline for 900 families

Photo Courtesy : The Hindu

UDAIPUR: Capturing rainwater is the most sustainable solution to deal with water scarcity in Rajasthan and specially when the technique is the traditional wisdom of the desert state.
According to Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), out of 243 blocks in Rajasthan, 196 fall in the critical zone. This means that in these regions, the annual withdrawal of water from underground is more than what falls as rain. There is growing imbalance between demand and supply of water in the state.

As per international standards, availability of water below 500 cubic meter is considered as absolute water scarcity. The annual per capita availability of water in the state is expected to go down to 439 m3 by 2050 which was 840 m3 in 2001 and against the national average of 1,140 m3 by 2050. Wells for India, (WI) a UK-based NGO which have been working for three decades for the water cause, has helped people to deal with water scarcity through rainwater capturing techniques. WI with its partner GRAVIS, another NGO helped construction and repair of 895 taankas in Pabupura cluster in the Phalodi block of Jodhpur district which has ensured water security to 900 families. These Taankas have of 21,000 litre capacity.

Now 900 families have water source at their doorstep for a period varying from 9 to 12 months. “The intervention has helped women in saving time, money and labour. Their working hours have reduced from 18 to 15 hours and now they can relax for around nine hours a day as compared six hours in the past. The increased water availability for a longer duration has reduced physical workload, mental stress and health related problems of women,” says OP Sharma, country director, WI.

Photo Courtesy : engineering and architecture

Tanka beneficiaries started to take bath and wash clothes more frequently. The water use in washing clothes and taking bath has increased by more than 4 times, whereas the water used by animals has increased by 2.5 times. Moreover, daily cleaning of utensils and water storage pots has substantially increased. Above 70% of the tanka families have started using alum/chlorine tablets to purify their drinking water, whereas more than 80% of the families have started using ladle to take water from the pot. Last but not least, expenditure incurred on water for drinking and domestic purpose including the water for animals reduced from 2 to 3 times.

Similarly in Hilly regions of Bhinder block of Udaipur seen the significant impacton increase in irrigated area on account of mainly ground water / well rechargedue to construction of small water harvesting works such as loose stone checkdams, masonry dams etc. Prior to construction of these structures the totalirrigated area under the command of these 39 existing wells (i.e in 2004) was only 23 hectare, which has now been (up to Rabi 2016 ) increased to 80 hectare. Irrigated area is showing the significant impact of these small water harvesting works on increasing the availability of water.

NeeRain is proud to republish this blog to spread awareness about the situation of water, for our stakeholders. Credit whatsoever goes to the Author.

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Times Of India

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Author : Times Of India

Published On : 22 Mar, 2017

India’s man-made water crisis threatens more cities

Photo Courtesy : Ador T. Bustamante/Gulf News

Chennai water crisis isn’t an isolated case. 21 cities are expected to run out of water

  • 200,000 Indians die every year because they don’t have a safe water supply.
  • In theory, India receives enough rain every year to meet the needs of over a billion people.
  • A rapidly urbanizing and developing India needs to drought-proof its cities and rationalize its farming.

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 per cent 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.

According to a study by the federal government think tank Niti Aayog, 21 Indian cities will run out of groundwater by next year, including the capital New Delhi and the information technology hub of Bengaluru. Two hundred thousand Indians already die every year because they don’t have a safe water supply, the report said. A shocking 600 million people face “high to extreme” water stress.

As the world warms, the rains on which India depends have become erratic: They frequently fail to arrive on time, and they fall in a more disparate and unpredictable pattern.

– Mihir Sharma

That Chennai should have run dry first is instructive. Less than four years ago, the now drought-ridden city was inundated by devastating floods. Though located on a flood plain, the city had paved over the lakes and wetlands that might have helped the process of recharging the water table. As a result, heavy rains couldn’t percolate into aquifers under the city. Water pooled and surged aboveground. That reduced the resources available to deal with a crisis like this year’s.

Photo Courtesy  : istock

Elsewhere, demand is the issue. In theory, India receives enough rain every year to meet the needs of over a billion people. According to the country’s Central Water Commission, it requires at most 3,000 billion cubic metres of water annually and receives 4,000 billion cubic metres of rain.

Inefficiency and misuse

But too much water is wasted thanks to inefficiency and misuse. The situation is particularly dire in India’s northwest, irrigated by the great rivers that rise in the Himalayas. Indians are taught to revere the “green revolution” of the 1970s, when the northwest became India’s granary thanks to canals and tube wells that pumped out groundwater. That revolution, however, has turned out to be unsustainable. In 2011, 245 billion cubic metres of water was withdrawn for irrigation — a quarter of the total groundwater depletion globally that year.

Northwestern states should be growing less water-intensive crops; areas in the east of the country that receive much more plentiful rainfall should take their place as the bread baskets of India. But shifting cultivation patterns around is politically problematic. Farmers in the northwest don’t just expect to continue to grow water-intensive crops, they also want free or subsidised power with which to run the tube wells that pump out their rapidly depleting groundwater.

limate change activists have long argued that water will be the political flashpoint of the 21st century. Water-stressed India will likely be one of the first places to test that theory. The state of Tamil Nadu complains that it doesn’t receive its fair share of the waters of the Cauvery River; recently, the authority that nominally manages the river accused the government of neighbouring Karnataka of holding onto water that it should have allowed to flow down to the Cauvery delta.

Things might get even testier up north, where more than a billion people depend upon rivers that rise in the Himalayas. Bangladesh and Pakistan feel that India is being stingy with river water. Indian strategists constantly worry that China will divert water from the Himalayan rivers that rise in Tibet to feed the thirst cities in its own north.

The floods in Chennai are a warning. As the world warms, the rains on which India depends have become erratic: They frequently fail to arrive on time, and they fall in a more disparate and unpredictable pattern. The country can no longer afford to waste its dwindling resources.

A rapidly urbanising and developing India needs to drought-proof its cities and rationalise its farming. Water-harvesting must be a priority, alongside mechanisms for groundwater replenishment. As it is, every summer is hotter and less bearable. If Indians run short of water as well, one of the world’s most populous nations could well become unlivable.

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Author : Mihir Sharma

Published On : 19 June, 2019


A world without water: Scary future lies ahead

We are living in water-stressed times; there are water-haves and a rising tide of water have-nots.

Photo Courtesy : Deccan Chronicle

In his 2015 sci-fi thriller, The Water Knife, set in Phoenix, Arizona, sometimein the near, dystopian future, novelist Paolo aacigalupi talks about placesthat are catastrophically water-starved, where suburbs have morphed intoghost towns and where people are fleeing drought. A riveting character in the book called Angel is a “water knife”, tasked to infiltrate and sabotage the water supplies of competing states.

I read excerpts of the book. It is racy, graphic, and terrifying, and not in the realm of the implausible anymore. We are living in water-stressed times; there are water-haves and a rising tide of water have-nots. A friend who lives in Gurgaon recently tweeted that in upscale condominiums in his city, there is free, unmetered, unlimited water for residents and one can actually leave a tap running and go off for a week with no charge and minimal consequences.

Meanwhile, the residents of Chennai, India’s sixth largest city, are livingthrough horrific times, though it rained a little earlier this week. Chennai has basically almost run out of water. The city is almost entirely dependent on the northeast monsoon, which starts in October. Last year, it received very little rainfall. Even thousands of kilometers away from Chennai, it is hard to insulate oneself against its troubles. All the four reservoirs that supply Chennai its water are running dry this summer because of scant rainfall in 2018.

Chennai’s water crisis is front-page news; friends’ Facebook posts describe in grim detail what is it is like to go without enough water day after day. There are images and video clips of long queues of people around water tankers in searing heat; there have been reports of scuffles over water. Many of Chennai’s hotels are rationing water for guests, and some private companies have reportedly asked their staff to work from home.

This week, the state government has announced that a train will bring water to Chennai from Jolarpettai in Vellore district, more than 200 km, away at a huge cost. The Opposition DMK leadership is against the idea. In short, more troubles lie ahead.

Chennai makes the headlines because it is a metropolitan city. But it is by no means the only place suffering acute water stress. Nearly half the country is grappling with drought-like conditions, and this has been particularly bad this year in western and southern India because of the below-average rainfall.

The question that interests me most about Chennai is how did it get to this sorry state? Tamil Nadu was perhaps the first state in India to make rainwater harvesting (RWH) mandatory for all buildings in 2003. Chennai has more than eight lakh RWH structures. So why are so many people in that city facing such an acute water shortage?

There hangs a tale which explains just about every mess that you see in nurban India. A building with a rainwater harvesting system on paper does not mean it actually works. A bit like the existence of a toilet does not mean it is used.

It will not work if it is not maintained properly. Friends in Chennai tell me there is huge apathy among a lot of people towards maintaining these structures. The water crisis had never been this acute. Many of the rainwater harvesting structures in Chennai are also inefficient.

If Chennai and so many other cities are facing a water crisis today, one bigreason is that neither policymakers nor many people living in these places truly realise the horrors of running out of water. If it starts raining anytime soon, people will forget their recent sufferings. That’s why the inefficiencies in the water sector remain, and rainwater storage and reuse and treatment of greywater are not given the importance that they deserve.

Here is one scandalous statistic about water losses. Lack of proper maintenance of infrastructure causes losses of almost 40 per cent of piped water in urban India.

Photo Courtesy : Quizlet

Chennai is currently in the news, but the big picture regarding water in India is grim. The Niti Aayog, the government’s think tank, acknowledges that nearly 600 million people in the country face high-to extreme water stress. There is a deepening national groundwater crisis, with 54 per cent of wells declining in level due to unsustainable withdrawals for irrigation.

The Narendra Modi government’s new Jal Shakti (water) ministry has announced a grand plan to provide piped water connections to every household in India by 2024. But the key question remains — what will happen if there is no water to give?

What will it take to realise that time is running out and we have to also wake up to simple ideas about conserving water. India captures only eight per cent of its annual rainfall. This is among the lowest in the world. Our ancestors used to capture far more. But those traditional methods have been neglected to the point where most are in ruins. We also don’t use our wastewater well.

There is much talk about security. It is time to realise that water is a security issue. Millions of Indians are not water-secure. Fights are breaking out over water. In Madhya Pradesh, the state government has reportedly asked the police in all its 52 districts to guard water sources. An existential threat hovers over many prosperous pockets of India. A drought is a huge part of the problem. The situation is getting steadily worse with unregulated extraction of groundwater, which is depleting underground aquifers. Take Bengaluru. Whoever has money drills a borewell to tap groundwater in the newer suburban areas where tech companies are clustered in the city.

A few years ago, I remember meeting a young hip technocrat who told me that “l fear the day when I will have soap all over my face and there is not a drop of water coming out of the tap”.

But I also saw a fascinating initiative called the Participatory Aquifer Mapping Project, which sought to involve Bengaluru’s residents in sharing information about borewells in their communities so that the city’s policymakers could learn what was happening underground and begin to craft a suitable response.

Today, in this country, demand for water vastly outstrips supply; the situation can deteriorate sharply unless we realise that this is an emergency and we must treat water as a precious resource and everyone must work towards conserving it.

The future could well resemble dystopian fiction.

NeeRain is proud to republish this blog to spread awareness about the situation of water, for our stakeholders. Credit whatsoever goes to the Author.

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Deccan Chronicle

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Author : Patralekha Chatterjee

Published On: 28, June, 2019