Next world war over Blue Gold?

By Salome Phelamei | Last Updated: May 26, 2013, 10:26 AM IST

What would life be like without this clear, colourless and odourless liquid that is given to us as a free gift by our Creator? It would simply be impossible because water and life are inseparable. In fact, life on earth would have never happened without water. Humans can survive without food for days but not without water.

Water - the elixir of life - is an essential component for endurance of all living beings. Almost everything that we do involves water; even a small and inconsequential task will not be possible without it.

Water scarcity in India and in other parts of the world has become a global problem.

India’s water related woes have reached such a level that even people in one of the most rain fed places on the planet, Cherrapunji in Meghalaya and other North-Eastern regions, which experience frequent showers all through the year, struggle to find drinking water.

Cherrapunji has held the record for highest rainfall several times in the past. The town, which is credited as being the second wettest place on earth, has yearly rainfall average of 11,777 millimetres, just behind nearby Mawsynram village (reportedly wettest place on Earth), whose average is 11,873 millimetres.

But, the city faces severe water shortage from November through March, despite persistent rainfall forcing the inhabitants to trek for miles to get drinking water.

The same problem is encountered in Manipur, which is an absolute paradise on earth where Mother Nature has been extra generous in her gift. Dotted with gleaming lakes and variety of orchids, it distinguishes itself from the rest of the country with its greenery and scenic beauties. But, only 38% people in Manipur have access to clean drinking water, whereas other states like Punjab, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have nearly 90% access.

Water crisis has become one of the major issues in Manipur although the hilly north-eastern state is soaked in rains from May until mid-October, receiving an annual rainfall of 1467.5 mm, while the downpour distribution varies from 933 mm in Imphal to 2593 mm in Tamenglong. Still, people here struggle to find potable water during the dry season of the year. Locals have to walk long distances to fill their vessels in springs or streams, or else they have to buy drinking water from private water carriers at around Rs 500 for just 1000 litres.

The above cited are just a few examples, which indicate deep water challenges that the country faces today. Millions of Indians still lack access to clean drinking water and the crisis is only likely to worsen. The country has just 4 percent of the world’s fresh water shared among 16 percent of the global population. According to the UN, there are 700 million people in 43 countries that face water scarcity problem.

At a recent conference in Thailand, Union Minister for Water Resources, Harish Rawat said that India is "inching towards water scarcity” and the situation in several states is critical as ground water levels are depleting at an alarming rate. The minister also called for treating water as a “community resource”.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies, in a 2010 report, estimated that in two decades, the real wild card for political and social unrest in the Middle East won’t be terrorism, war or revolution - it would be severe shortage of water.

Water serves as the source of all living things, starting from the most crucial process of photosynthesis in plants. Thus, without this crystal clear substance and its unique properties, living beings cannot survive.

Safe drinking water is vital to humans and other forms of life. According to the UNICEF, about 600,000 children die in India every year because of diarrhoea or pneumonia, often caused by toxic water and poor hygiene. This indicates the close connection among water, health and ecosystem.

While, it is a well-known fact that there would be violence over this priceless essence sooner or later, it is time that we all stop exploiting and start saving this ‘blue gold’.

May be we can begin from our homes in our daily activities by minimising the use of water for washing or bathing, shutting the taps properly, checking the leakages and plugging them, using water from washing clothes for wiping floors, etc. The action may sound minute but it does make a difference in saving water.

With a worsening water crisis, our country’s economy will also get affected. Unless the policymakers find a way that would help save, conserve and recycle water and solve this looming crisis, our future is fatally at stake.