Chennai’s Drought Has Tough Lessons for Asia’s Economies
By James Crabtree
Chennai is meant to be India’s great manufacturing center, a self-styled “Detroit of Asia,” with plans to transform itself into a global hub for electronics and smartphone exports. But lately this megacity has made headlines for a less happy reason: running out of water.
For months many of Chennai’s seven million residents have survived on deliveries from tankers, lining up each morning for a daily water ration. These travails illustrate a wider problem which will soon be faced by many other developing Asian countries, in which water supplies begin to act as a major barrier to industrial development.
Put simply, water scarcity may soon be as important as supplies of cheap labor in shaping the direction of Asia’s next stage of globalization — and it will do so in ways that damage both India’s prospects and those of other, poorer nations around the region.
Photo courtesy of Knut-Erik Helle.