Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Our Water Crisis

We are looking at a bad monsoon for yet another year, and we wonder what the "water scene" will be like. What should we be worried about? Why do we need water?
  1. To drink
  2. To grow food
  3. To clean our homes, schools and offices.
  4. We also need water for many things that aren't obvious..... More about it in a bit.
So, what is the crisis? What can be done practically, by us as individuals? It is easier to understand the water crisis if we look at it this way:

In the Cities:

  1. Huge water consuming urban lifestyle: Western toilets, filtered water, showers and more
  2. Bad infrastructure: Cities have grown, but the water pipelines, tanks, filtration units, haven't kept up.
  3. Rainwater is wasted: The city's land is almost entirely covered with flooring, concrete or buildings. The rain doesn't get into the ground. Instead, it goes into sewage lines and becomes polluted, dirty and unusable.
  4. Vanishing Groundwater: We keep drilling deeper and deeper to pull out water that has been lying underground for millions of years, and we dont replenish it with rainwater.
  5. Garbage: Garbage clogs drains and pipes. It mixes up with drinking water. This provides opportunity for private companies to start selling clean water in tankers and bottles.
As water becomes scarce in the city, it is transported by petrol consuming vehicles from some other place. This deprives those other areas of water, and makes it very expensive for those living in the cities.

Our industries consume water without any control or responsibility. In turn, they also dump chemicals that pollute our rivers, groundwater, soil and air. The Pollution Control Boards are seen as evil departments impeding our 'progress'.

In the villages...

  1. Farmlands turning into deserts: Running heavy tractors, pumping chemicals and other pollutants into the naturally fertile soil makes it hard, dead and sterile. The organic material in the soil is gone. The earthworms and other life is dead. The hard soil can no longer hold water.
  2. Crops need more water than before: Chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides need far more water than natural farming methods. The fertilizers and pesticides industries consume huge amounts of water too. 
  3. Cities take the water away: Many farmers are forced to sell their water to the cities. Tankers come and collect water from them. Water is no longer a resource but a commodity to be traded.
What's to be Done?
Quite a lot, actually. Here are some basic steps. Pick as many as you can, keep increasing over time. BOOND BOOND SE BANTA HAI SAGAR.
  1. Conserving energy conserves water: Take a bus instead of a car, a fan instead of an AC.  All our coal based electricity plants consume massive amounts of water.
  2. Products consume water: Every toy, laptop, cell phone has indirectly consumed thousands of liters of water to be made. Each time you decide not to buy that new gadget, trinket, shoe, whatever.... Well, Congrats !!! You have saved water.
  3. Consume Organic: Organic food consumes far less water than chemically grown food. It is healthier too.
  4. Eat less meat: Huge amounts of water, land and energy is needed to grow animals for meat.
  5. Skip junk food: Not only are burgers, pizza, nuggets, chips and coke bad for you. They waste a lot of water in being produced!
  6. Water efficient machines : Opt for front loading washing machines, avoid western toilets (if not, ensure they are optimised for water), use simple water filters instead of RO systems.
  7. Save rainwater: Install rain-water harvesting solutions in buildings to recharge the groundwater. A city should learn to live by the rainfall it receives.
  8. Say NO to Plastics: They use up a huge amount of water to make. And then, they clog up the city drains and water pipes!
  9. Segregate your Garbage: Compost at home and give it back to the soil. Reduce the amount of garbage you generate. 
There's a lot more to be said, discussed and understood. If you are curious, here is a reading/viewing list :

  1. Articles and videos at India Water Portal
  2. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, at the UNICEF Portal
  3. Water conservation videos on youtube
  4. If you understand Tamil, watch K Balachander's classic, Thanneer Thanneer

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