Burning Dry

Under the scorching sun, the farmer sighed in exasperation as he tried to toil on the parched earth to make a living. All the wells and water bodies around his village had dried up. There was nothing he could do to get water, and his mouth had a dry sticky feeling. The depressed farmer looked out at the dry horizon wondering when the rains would come and how long his family would go hungry. There had been no rains for more than a year. He had really hoped that his wife would manage to get some water last week from the government tankers, but she had gotten injured in the water tank stampede. It was then, that the weary farmer decided to pack his bags and move to the city to search for a daily wage job. 

Meanwhile, in the city, the groundwater has already run dry. The green parks of the city have now withered with shades of browns. The weather remains unforgiving with no sign of rain and the heat shows no sign of reprise with each passing day. All the reservoirs have dried up in the city and one could see the dead fishes lying at the bottom of the lakes. There is mass hysteria among the people as they are looking to buy water from private water corporations. Violent news of people’s desperate fight for water spreads across the city. Even then, what they had obtained was not enough, and the people only managed to get water for a maximum of 1 hour per day. Water became the most prized possession. The year was 2019.

Dead fishes lying on the parched bed of the Chembarambakkam Reservoir, Chennai, India. Source: The News Minute

Unfortunately, this scenario has often occurred in many villages and cities across India recently. But the worst-hit Indian city, in terms of population, was Chennai, India in 2019. Even though Chennai’s reservoirs are now replenished a bit by the rains, it is not proportionate to the demand. Chennai had to borrow water from other Indian states to barely sustain during that hot year. However, this situation is not limited to only India as the water crisis has badly affected many cities like Cape Town, Mexico, and Melbourne in recent years. For the urban cities that were once green, drought is one of the impending calamities due to the rising global temperature each year. As the population grows in urban cities, the consumption of resources is more than the city can provide. Also, at the same time, many of the urban cities are not properly equipped to factor in the changing spectrum of future calamities. During the drought, many people have lamented about not installing rainwater harvesting and how it could have helped the situation. They were right, however, rainwater harvesting is only a small part of the larger picture of timely intervention. The cities need to plant more trees and maintain their ecosystem. So, judicial planning of implementation has to be taken into account to better equip the urban cities in the face of future disasters.

Water Stress Level around the world. Source: New York Times

From India to Iran to Botswana, 17 countries around the world are currently under extremely high water stress, which means that they are using almost all the water they have, according to the New World Resources Institute. Nowadays cities that never faced droughts before are at high risk of being run dry within a few years. Since water is a regional problem, each solution has to be unique to each type of region. Awareness should be created within the people along with a meticulous drought forecast system. In that way, landscape architects can study how to mitigate the risk by creating eco-city planning with a focus on replenishing the waterways and green spaces of the city. Singapore is a very good example of having a water management program planning integrated within its design qualities of urban spaces. The city has improved its efficiency in urban water management and strengthening resilience efforts against future droughts. 

Based on studying human use of water in each city, we can execute proper planning of reusing and building proper water infrastructure, so we don’t lose out water in drought risk areas. Source: World Economic Forum

In this kind of scenario, there has to be a strong international research and support to encourage each country’s growth. The streets and parks could be designed to be one of the multifunctional elements within water retention planning of the city. For example, by making the streets as a rain collection area, they can contribute to the flourishing ecology and be part of the water recycling process. It is a step by step pre-planned process and it is crucial to implement it in each urban city as soon as possible. It is important to increase the ecological urbanism of the city, to make the upcoming hot days more bearable. And hopefully, there would be no more wars on the water in the future.


  1. New York Times: Article: A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises By Somini Sengupta and Aug. 6, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/06/climate/world-water-stress.html
  2. AlJazeera: Inside India’s water crisis: Living with drought and dry taps. 27 July 2019
  3. Article: A way to overcome Urban Water Crisis and creating a liveable city. By Dieter Grau http://www.dreiseitl.com/data/PUBLICATIONS/12_INL_DG_A_Way_to_Overcome_Urban_Water_Crisis_and_Creating_Livable_Cities.pdf
  4. World Economic Forum: Cities must manage their water better or risk drought by Toshiko Mori and Virginia Gresham. 21 Sept 2018.