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Water Challenge


Every year, when the temperatures soar and drought like conditions hit many parts of India, there is talk of the water problems faced by the country. However, as the monsoon strikes with flooding resulting increasingly from localised heavy rain the conversation changes. Little thought is given to whether the rain water is retained in the ground, the ponds, lakes and other kinds of reservoirs. In fact, as time goes by, many of these reservoirs are encroached upon and built over. This causes flooding and waterlogging because drainage systems are lacking. The rivulets that drain into water bodies have also been flattened or choked up. The consequence of this is chronic drought despite supposedly good monsoons in the rural areas, and drinking water shortages in urban areas.

This is why the situation needs to be studied not in overall statistical terms but on localised templates networked into a larger water map. People from all strata of society have to be made aware of the developing crisis and the ways in which individuals can play a role in averting it. It is the poor who are the most affected so they need not only to be convinced of the urgency, but also told how they can contribute to conserving water. A lot of this would involve not doing things that damage the environment, such as dumping plastic in drains and water bodies. Being closest to ground zero, they can provide feedback on damaging activities to the authorities concerned.

Of course, planting trees is the first line of defence. Religious leaders should ask every citizen to plant at least as much wood as is required for the last rites, be it the funeral pyre or the coffin. As is reported the case in the Philippines, students should not be provided a school passing certificate and college degree unless they have planted ten trees, each. The plantation drive held along the Rispana and other rivers in Uttarakhand that was initiated some time ago should have been continued with necessary improvements for increased survival rates, for at least the coming decade. Farmers who overwater fields in irrigated areas, or plant water-demanding crops where there is not enough replenishment should be provided data on the consequence of their activities and the possible alternatives. All the traditional water sources, wells, techniques and traditions should be revived so that everybody’s basic needs can be comfortably met. Urban lifestyles also have to be changed so that it becomes ‘cool’ to be environment friendly. Industries have to be regulated so that they do not pollute, and recycle water effectively. Unless this and the numerous other initiatives are taken, water scarcity will basically undo all the progress India can hope to make.