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Water Woes

WATER WOES

Another day, another watery tale of woe. Day after day, the media is filled with dismal stories about the misery resulting from an abject lack of water in parts of our country. The plight of the people worst affected is heinous. With the worst of summer yet to come, the harsh reality of our situation is that, this tale of woe has no end in sight yet.

Due in major parts to our own greed and lack of forethought, the drought that has gripped the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana as well as the water scarcity that is being felt in other parts of India, is more a man-made tale of woe than nature’s perfidy.

Our very own special brand of “it is every man for himself” type of thinking gone haywire that has contributed to our sorry state. So, it is time to think of the greater good. Like the students of this school in Pune – they are collecting the left-over water from their bottles at the school, so that it may be used for watering the school plants or for keeping the wash rooms clean.

“The school has around 1670 students, and if each child has 1/4th of water left in his bottle, it would amount to nearly 1 lakh litres of water been wasted everyday, which is a huge loss. Taking this thought into account, we had a discussion with the students and their suggestions were taken” – Ashwini Kulkarni, school Director

Every drop counts and small changes like this all add up to make a big difference. For once, those with star power are coming to the aid of the common man. Actor Nana Patekar started an amazing trend by adopting whole villages to support and offered his aid; other actors like Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan are following suit. A slow trickle of support, but if it grows into a deluge, that will be the start of a wonderful situation!

But… let’s not get ahead of ourselves; let’s look at the cause of this abysmal situation and see what brought us here in the first place. According to news reports, the severity of the drought in Maharashtra is one of its own making – the usual ingredients of greedy politicians and unsavoury methods are to be blamed for this. To that, we must add short-sightedness to the list of crimes. According to Huffington Post, apathy for the poor is the number one cause of the grand scale of this misery.

While the frequency of extreme weather events is rising because of climate change, experts say that the prevailing crisis is a combination of governance and policy failures which go back decades, and the apathy of the Indian state to the suffering of the poor.

Rajendra Singh, the famous water conservationist from drought-hit Rajasthan, who won the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize, said that India’s “manmade drought” is the result of the Indian government’s non-seriousness about water security.

As long as short term monetary gain of a few trump the long-term prosperity of many, this sort of crisis will keep revisiting us in different forms, each time worse than the previous. By then, saving a few drops will likely not help in saving our hides.

So, what is the way forward? How are we to rise over this and prevent future such incidents from occurring?

According to N.C.Saxena, former secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development, there is no “carefully considered” policies in place or preventative strategies that can be put in motion in times of crises such as these. From cultivating crops that aren’t water guzzlers to “papering over the deep-rooted problems” with short-term solutions, our government has been guilty of not being proactive and forward-thinking.

 

Instead of pushing dole-oriented schemes, Saxena said that the government needs to engage with people, teach them water harvesting, contour-bunding and agroforestry, and then make them responsible for maintaining these resources.

The time for short-gap solutions to plug in the cracks has long gone. Now is the time for the government to rally round think tanks and NGOs, pool in the collective knowledge and start implementing longterm solutions for the good of the land. Until then, catchy slogans will not be worth the paper they are printed upon.

 

 

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Water: Every Drop Counts!

Water- Every Drop Counts!

Let me tell you a story. True story!

So, three days back, my old neighbour who lives abroad with her daughter, came back to the country for a visit. Opened up her apartment that had remained shut for more than 18 months, but thanks to the neighbours, was maintained in decent condition, with an extra round of cleaning thrown in so the lady and her offspring didn’t get enveloped in dust the minute they stepped in.

That night, at about 2:30 am, the old lady’s son-in-law, who seemed like a senior citizen himself, woke up to answer nature’s call. Went in to use the Indian style toilet. Of course. having lived abroad for three decades upwards, the man was out of touch with squatting. He couldn’t get right back up and put his weight on the pipe to give him some leverage.

Next moment he was caught in a major deluge! The old pipes, unused to such manhandling, burst right open, soaking him in seconds. Within minutes, the whole household was in an uproar. They woke up the flat secretary, the watchmen and any other stray insomniac that happened to walk past at that ungodly hour.

The poor secretary ran two floors up to the terrace, located their inlet pipe after an exhaustive search and turned off the mains. Only snag was, the inlet pipe didn’t just feed into the bathroom with the burst pipe but of everyone on that line. Including mine! It made for a frantic morning, when the kids woke up unable to use their bathroom and all of us had to share one, making the rush hour even more of one.

That same time, the Site Administrator of one of the residential complexes which had our VenAqua system installed, had a similar incident. At 2.00 am, his phone pinged with a message that flat X was showing an unusual amount of water usage. He puzzled over this, as that apartment was lying empty currently. Still, he followed protocol and informed his counterpart at the residential complex. Who walked inside the empty apartment to find the cause of the water leak: an open tap in one of the bathrooms.

He quickly turned the tap off and delved further into the matter. Turned out, the flat was shown to prospective tenants by a realtor, who had opened the taps and not closed one off completely. The tanks were empty then but as they filled, the water started leaking through the open tap. The residential complex’s administrator called our offices later that morning to share the results of his investigation and thank the stars for our product. As without it, they might have lost much more water – at least till the next time the apartment was opened and someone went into the bathroom to find out where the sound of water was coming from!

Sometimes, it is great when a system comes together, isn’t it?