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Water Wars

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 - 13:36
Ritesh K Srivastava
The Observer

One of my friends recently gave a weird excuse for not coming to office on a particular day. He said that since there was no water supply in his area he could not take a bath and do household chores, so he could not come. Hearing this, a senior colleague then jokingly asked,”Do you take bath everyday? It’s not good to take bath daily in cities like Delhi.”

The comment was made in a lighter vein but reflects the seriousness of the issue- the water crisis- which affects everyone.

I recently shifted to West Vinod Nagar locality hoping that the area receives adequate water supply as compared to nearby localities where the residents face acute shortage. However, my happiness vanished after few weeks, when I realised that the area is no different from other localities, as it too faces acute water crisis.

And if that was not enough, the water which flows through our taps is more often than not contaminated, leading to a greater chance of ordinary people like me getting affected with water-borne diseases.

Taps running dry, Delhi Jal Board tankers supplying water in several areas, and a long queue of ordinary men and women and even children waiting to collect water for their daily chores is a common sight in the national capital.

It is also quite commonplace to see the water laden tanks going up and down the potholes of the city’s roads, spilling enormous litres of precious drinking water in the process, simply because there is no firm lid. Even the water filling stations of DJB can be spotted from half a mile away as there is water spillage all around and tankers are being filled carelessly. I almost cried ‘Murder’ on one such occasion where the filling station had simply left the big feeder pipe running water for hours even when there was no tank below it!

All thanks to excellent water treatment and its distribution by the Delhi Jal Board that was constituted with an aim of supplying filtered water to the Delhi household.

Everyone knows that water is a basic requirement for sustaining life on earth. One can easily imagine how difficult it would be to spend one single day if one does not get the minimum supply of water for daily tasks. This is the case of a small locality of Delhi, and if we consider the larger picture, the whole country, in fact the entire world, now faces increased scarcity of water.

The situation is deplorable in India because of its ballooning population, shrinking natural water resources, bad spell of monsoons, rising demand for industrial, domestic and farming needs.

The uncontrolled water usage and people’s habit of wasting water is further worsening the situation. Added to that is our devil-may-care attitude towards its conservation.

A recent report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that the per capita water availability in India will decline to about 1,140 cubic metres per year in 2050 from 1,820 cubic metres per year recorded in 2001.

The IPCC also warned that the country could reach a state of water stress before 2025, when the availability would be below 1,000 cubic metres per capita. The Global Warming, climatic changes and exploding population will trigger a steep decline in the per capita water supply.

The IPCC’s warning has come at a time when several states across India are facing a severe drought situation and Union Agriculture Minister has warned that bad monsoon, depleting water storage levels and decline in winter rains will badly affect the agriculture sector.

The IPCC report also stressed that global warming would drastically change the dynamics of the water cycle, leading to a continuous shrink in natural water resources (rivers, ponds and lakes etc).

At this juncture, we do not understand the seriousness of the issue or realise the importance of things like plantation, rain water harvesting and other sustainable practices. But come 2040 or 50, we would for sure realise the importance of very single drop of water. The UN Environment Agency has also warned that almost 3 billion people will be severely short of water within 50 years.

It’s not a far-fetched thought that in those times, water would be so scarce that it would be protected by heavily armed guards. Since the discovery of first oil field in Bahrain in 1931, it was oil which has been the major cause of conflict among nations. However, in the twenty-first century it would be water over which major wars will be fought.

The issue is of particular concern to India, since we are largely dependent on glaciers and rainfall for water supply. The excessive use of pesticides and chemicals in agriculture has largely contaminated the natural water resources, and uneven water distribution in rural and urban areas has aggravated the crisis. Several states in India have locked horns over distribution of water for decades.

The situation now calls for good governance, right policy decisions, effective awareness campaigns aimed at inculcating a habit of saving water in common folk and adoption of well-planned measures to meet the ever increasing demand for water.

We too need to bring about a paradigm shift in our lifestyle so as to best preserve the resources of Planet Earth.

Please Save Water... It’s precious.

First Published: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 - 13:36

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