That precious drop
The way we go about our pampered lives, it's as if we will always have an infinite supply of clean drinking water. Read on for a grim scenario in the near future. Today is World Water Day
Future shock? No, it's already happening even in areas where water was once plentiful. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar
THE SUN is melting the earth and all you need is a sip to stay alive. But there's no water to drink. Unless, of course, you want to drink of the black ooze covering most of the earth. This is not science fiction: this is the future. If you want slake your thirst tomorrow, you have to help save water today.
From its pristine beginnings as fresh sparkling streams to end up as putrid pools, water has met disaster after it gifted life to earth. Human greed and profit motives have transformed a life force into a killer. Considered a purifier and life-giver in every culture in the world, water is now at the root of a silent, enormous crisis. Water pollution, scarcity of drinking water, floods, lack of water for irrigation... are only a few of the water-related problems in India now.
Recently, conservationists, Sanskrit scholars, scientists, foresters and some well-watered urbanites, met at a lush, organically managed vanilla plantation, to talk water. Enticing indifferent urbanites with song, dance, food and discussion, the members of Heritage, an arts and culture organisation, got thoughts on water flowing. A well-composed musical, Theertha Yatra, was presented by Anoor Ananthakrishna Sharma and party, adding to the effect.
While the scholars defined the cultural parameters of water from the scriptures, the conservationists rattled off statistics, trying to sound the alarm bells. "Forest is the mother of rivers... Forests act as a sponge and absorb moisture... Management of forests has been neglected. Water (which is supposed to be a purifier for pilgrims) has been poisoned and made a commodity," rued Yellappa Reddy, noted environmentalist. Duleep Mathai, another environmentalist, said: "The single most important thing we need in the country now, is water. (For that, we need) leadership with a vision. The solution is to re-establish forest cover on the uplands of the country... The most precious thing that the forests give us is not timber or fodder but water." Give nature a chance and don't meddle with it, urged the environmentalists.
Commenting on the plan to inter-link rivers, Dr. Leela, Professor of Zoology, MES College, said: "It's like trying to alter the blood circulation in the body. The whole plan is based on the assumption that only humans need water. But what about the bio-diversity?"
"Subscribe to a sapling to restore forest cover around the Chamaraja Sagara Dam," urged Srinivas Raju of Navachetana Trust. Project Vananjali in the area aims also to restore water levels in Thippagondanahalli Tank, which used to supplement Bangalore's drinking water supply. Now that it is dry, the city is dependant on the 855 million litres of water pumped from the Cauvery everyday. Incidentally, BWSSB spends 60 per cent of its revenue on power charges.
Industry, that great guzzler, is much protected by laws that facilitate its water usage. Effluent treatment is not ensured or enforced. And once the industrial process is complete, the chemically loaded water is returned without thanks to rivers and water bodies. It's the farmers who face stringent laws and are sometimes not allowed to touch the river that they've lived by for aeons.
Chandra Ravikumar, a concerned citizen and geography teacher, cited an example in Chattisgarh where an entire stretch of a river has been sub-contracted to a businessman who then supplies water to industries in the area. "Farmers are not allowed to sink borewells surrounding catchment areas so the groundwater level will not fall. And it's the cities that get water from the catchment area. Farmers can't dig open wells anymore because they will not hit water. So what are they supposed to do?" she fumed. It's typical of the authorities to first allow and aid deforestation and then formulate laws and spill money to protect the remains.
The National Water Policy calls for a participatory approach to water resources management. But the profiteering of water is forcing farmers to give up land, plough, and their very life. Ecologists predict that all future wars will be over water. In fact, much blood has already been shed over this precious resource. But when are we going to fight those exploiting the earth and water?
So what can you do?
Call the Rainwater Club on 23642435/23641690 for information on rainwater harvesting or awareness programmes on water management.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 2126855/2126968 to find out about NavachetanaTrust's Project Vananjali.
Plant a sapling
Join a water movement
Close taps tightly
Use water in the knowledge that it won't last forever
Spread the word water is precious.
Facts you should know
SEVENTY-EIGHT per cent of the earth's surface is covered with water; 97 per cent of this is in the oceans, two per cent in the glaciers, and only one per cent is fresh water. Of this one per cent, a third is sub-surface water and the rest is surface water. The surface water is shared by the atmosphere, earth, animals, lakes, rivers, sand particles, and so on.
Of the world's available water, 73 per cent is used for irrigation and cannot be reclaimed. Twenty-two per cent is used by industry and 5 per cent for domestic use. Ninety per cent of this can be reclaimed.
India's 329 million hectares of land gets enough rainfall to cover the entire area with 1 metre of rain, if distributed evenly.
Eighty per cent of urban areas are impervious to percolation of rainwater.
According to the World Health Organisation, each person needs 200 litres of water per day ideally.
To produce one tonne of paper, 40,000 gallons of water is used. It's 50,000 gallons per tonne for steel and 200,000 to 400,000 gallons per tonne of plastic.
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