Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keep your cool

It is the end of October and the rains aren't here yet. Worse, the heat remains terrible. Iced drinks continue to do brisk business. Though there are all kinds of refrigeration equipment and cold storage options available these days, the demand for readymade-ice continues to hold steady. This person, delivering a 5-kg block to a fruit juice centre is part of a reasonably big industry which is mostly ignored by the general public.

The city's demand for 'block-ice' is large enough to sustain several ice factories; the exact number can only be a matter of conjecture, for there are many run clandestinely, providing smaller sizes than the industrial norms of 50-kg and 140-kg blocks. What we see on the streets are obviously far smaller, with a 50-kg block probably taking care of the needs of about 10 to 20 'juice centres'. These blocks typically come from the factories of south Chennai, for they are the ones catering to demand from hotels, clubs, hospitals and the like. The ice factories of north Chennai on the other hand deal almost exclusively with the fishing industry: both seagoing and land-based. Boats that go out to sea carry on them 5 tonnes of ice for a week-long trip; the chilling plants on shore need large volumes of ice while they process the daily catch. By one estimate, the city consumes over 100 tonnes of 'industrial ice' every month.

Wonder where they will get all the water they need, if the rains continue to stay away!

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