Exclusive on World Water Day (22 March 2010)
One gives life, while the other sustains it. One flows in our veins making us living beings, and the other percolates around us, making this planet livable. The possibility of finding water on Mars and Moon excites the scientific community no end. But, Alas! We don’t seem to be caring for either of them. Political leaders have not shied away in giving patriotic slogans like ‘you give me blood and I will give you freedom’, or ‘we want blood for blood’. We do not hesitate to label a non aggressive person as one who has water flowing in her/his veins instead of blood. Rhetoric apart, I really admire George Bernard Shaw for having had the courage to say “Fight if you must, but do not glorify war”. And yet it is being strongly felt that if at all there is going to be a third world war, it will be fought for water. So water, or the lack of it, is likely to spill rivers of blood. Read more
I was really shocked to read recently in a national daily that Thai protesters, including monks, poured several jugs of their own blood on the front gate of the government head quarters in Bangkok, in a symbolic sacrifice to press their demands for early polls in Thailand.. Their leaders vowed to collect 1000 litres of blood (drawing a few teaspoons from each volunteer) and pour it out on the roads. One of the protest leaders proudly claimed that ‘the blood of the common people is mixing together to fight for democracy’.
I do not know about Thailand, but in India there is a perpetual shortage of blood for patients who are in need of it. It is a pity that litres of blood simply went down the drains, when it could have been used to give life to someone in desperate need of it. Wouldn’t that have been a better gesture to save democracy? People are very circumspect about donating blood for others, but they do not bat an eyelid when it comes to wasting it on the streets. I think that all of us should resolve to donate blood (and not spill it) to hospitals on our birthdays and other solemn occasions, thus strengthening human bonds and not pay mere lip service to democracy.
It is equally unpardonable to waste water. It is through our own wicked deeds that water has become such a priced commodity which is becoming scarcer day by day. As a youngster, I remember the taps in our homes never went dry. Now it is a miracle if they trickle for 2 or 3 hours in the entire day. In some cities of India, the condition becomes so bad that water in very limited quantities is supplied through government tankers only once or twice a week during the summer months. People are being forced to buy water, not only for drinking purposes, but also for their daily chores. The public water supply system is almost on the verge of extinction and slowly passing into private hands. People resort to installing water pumps and/or digging tube wells / hand pumps in their houses and feel encouraged to use it more indiscriminately.
Even as we refuse to reduce its consumption, we can at least curb the wastage of water. It is heart rending to see water flowing into drains from over filled overhead water tanks, as the household pumps remain switched on for long. I wish there was some mechanism to stop this criminal waste of a precious thing. I wonder if some study has been carried out to measure the amount of water wasted if a water storage tank overflows at full force for just about 5 minutes. Talks of rain water harvesting seem ludicrous if we cannot switch off our water pumps, when not needed, and prevent this criminal waste of water.
Every year, 1,500 cubic kilometres of waste water are produced globally. While waste and waste water can be reused productively for energy and irrigation, it usually is not. In developing countries 80 percent of all waste is being discharged untreated, because of lack of regulations and resources.. Human and environmental health, drinking and agricultural water supplies for the present and future are at stake. Still, water pollution rarely warrants mention as a pressing issue. An estimated 1.1 billion people of the world rely on unsafe drinking-water sources.
Keeping this dismal scenario in mind, UN-Water has chosen ‘Clean Water for a Healthy World’ as the theme for World Water Day 2010. The overall goal of the World Water Day on 22 March 2010 campaign is to focus on raising awareness about the profile of water quality at the political level so that water quality considerations are made alongside those of water quantity.
In fact potable drinking water should not be a demand or a need, but a basic human right, just like clean breathing air. Yet, it has become a commercial product, like oil, thanks to a lack of political will and abundance of citizens’ apathy. We take it as a sign of upward mobility to buy and drink bottled water (whose purity is also doubtful). Mineral water (what does it actually mean?) is the buzzword these days, thanks to sustained advertisement propaganda by multinationals.
As the UN and other international bodies seek solutions to this crisis of potable water at government levels, let us just be a bit more sensitive and sensible in our daily lives. It would merely require a little bit of conscious effort on our part to turn off the taps while brushing our teeth, and mend the leaking ones; switch off the pumps when tanks are full; use the shower in the bathroom judiciously; do not leave the hose in the garden to water it overnight; and prevent household waste from being thrown in ponds and rivers.
Let water not turn into rivers of blood and let blood not be spilled on roads – figuratively and literally.
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS), has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP, and teaches Physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. Email: email@example.com, website: www.citizen-news.org)
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