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Water Crises: A Solution From The Past For Our Future?

stepwell

Every day, an average person’s social media feed is inundated with information, worded expertly for their shock value. Last week, one such cropped up on mine and it shocked me, all right.

“India’s ground water supply to run out in 2040!” it stated in no uncertain terms. In 25 years time, our country will run out of ground water. Between now and then, as our supplies go on down, the situation will become more and more dire. Remember what it is said: the next World War may well be fought over water – or our lack of it.

Now can you imagine the starkness of our situation?

When I was discussing this with my family over Sunday lunch, after the initial round of disbelief, one of my aunts asked this: “2040? Then we still have time to undo this, right?” I do not know about undo; how could you undo generations of abuse? Every day, we waste tonnes and tonnes of water; we proceed blindly, digging bore wells here and cutting trees there, with nary a thought towards the long term repercussions. How do you even begin to try to undo that?

But this doesn’t mean that the outcome is a foregone conclusion. We still can rein things in and stem the tide of damage. We still can come up with counter measures and contingency plans that can reduce the severity of the situation. And, who knows, buy us time. Because one thing is certain: if we do not start acting with forethought now, we will be in deep trouble long before 2040.

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 Do you know what a baoli is? Baoli or bawdi is a traditional step well, which were quite common in  our country for centuries. Stepwells were found even in the the days of the Indus Valley civilisation. A pond or well serving a local area would have deep stone steps cut into its sides so that the people could climb down to the water and help themselves to it. These baolis had huge cultural significance to the lives of the people of the community, all of which came to an end with the advent of the British Raj.

But now, they are seeming something of a resurgence. Rapid depletion of ground water has made the people look into alternate sources and coupled with rainwater harvesting methodologies, baolis are being seen as good ways of combating the severe water shortage across the country. Many of the baolis have either fallen into disrepair or have been destroyed completely, thanks to the rapid and mindless urbanisation. In Delhi, for example, only 15 remain.

Under the guidance of NGOs and archeological trusts, the existing baolis are slowly being restored. Perennial problem demands a solution beyond the times, surely.

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Where Is The Water?

Last Sunday, I went on a drive down the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR), to inspect a newly-built apartment. The apartment was in a gated community, beyond Kelambakkam junction and so, a fair ride away. Mile after mile, we passed by gated communities under construction, on both sides of the road.

The sheer numbers involved are staggering. There were at least two constructions going on per kilometer (this is a conservative estimate – many are being built, cheek by jowl), each one boasting no less than a hundred dwellings. So, the 30 km stretch we traversed will potentially host thousands of NEW households, each with its own set of requirements.

Imagine the amount of water that is going to be required by these people! Mind-boggling, isn’t it? This, coming on top of news days like this, makes you wonder where the communities are going to get the water to sate their needs.

Every single one of these developments boasted massive ad-blimps, listing features such as jogging tracks, community centres, organic food stores and swimming pools. None carried information on where they were going to source the water and how they are going to dispose of their sewage safely after. These are the unattractive background info that don’t sell but no jogging track is going to prove useful if you are not going to have any water to drink tomorrow.

The unfortunate detail everyone seems to be missing is that, there is simply not enough water to go around. Not at the rate in which we are going through it, in any case. We need to wise up now and start thinking of counter-measures, not just stockpile water cans as if that is going to save us tomorrow. Zombie apocalypse may not happen, but an acute water shortage is not any less scary a prospect.

Let us stop wasting water now and inculcate some solid conservation habits in ourselves, as only these will help us in the difficult times to come.

  • Do not clean vegetables and fruit in running water. Fill a bowl with water and use it to clean; make sure you use the dirty water to water your plants.
  • Running water and taps have made us careless in our consumption. Let’s dial things down a little. Fill containers with water – buckets and kitchen vessels – and use these for your regular use.
  • Reuse as much of the water as possible. Think multiple usage. Use the RO waste water to clean your floors and wash your vessels; set up a drip-irrigation method to water your plants; compost your kitchen waste and stop flushing things down.

What other methods do you follow? Do share them with us!