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Water, water everywhere, but…

Water. We sure do take it for granted, don’t we? Look around you. Chances are you’d find someone wasting this most precious thing somewhere in your vicinity. Maybe it is the Metro water tanker that is sloshing its contents all over itself and around it. Maybe it is the leaky tap at the corner of your garden. Or the neighbour’s overhead tank that is imitating a mini waterfall because they forgot to turn their motor off.

We know it is vital. We know it is finite. What else do we know about it? How long is it going to be there for us to dip into? When is it going to run out? What in the name of all that is holy will we do when it does run out?

Water and its usage

First off, let’s take an in-depth look at water and its domestic uses. Talk about an eye-opener! Next time junior keeps the tap on whilst brushing his teeth, be sure to show him this link!

The situation – dire. 

No need to sugar coat this, the prognosis appears quite grim. World over, the groundwater resources are depleting fast but nowhere is the situation as bad as it is in India. Studies conducted by the University of California at Irvine, say that “… the Indus Basin aquifer of India and Pakistan, which is a source of fresh water for millions of people, is the second-most overstressed with no natural replenishment to offset usage”. That’s us, folks. Taking a lot but not putting much back in.

Water woes a’plenty

Lakes frothing up, taller than buildings. Farmers killing themselves because of water scarcity – no water, no crops. Huge swathes of the city closed off because there’s a lack of water. Water logging. Our mismanagement of water has resulted in a number of issues, each one more dire than the other. In Tamil, there’s a proverb: “the water has risen over our heads; what does it matter if it is a little or a lot?” Well, it does because, our woes right now may be plenty but things can become worse. And we do not want that!

What’s the worst that could happen?

Riots. Famine. War. Widespread disease. Death.

Pretty much the end of the world type situation. 20 years back, the then Vice President of World Bank Ismail Serageldin said, “the wars of the next century will be fought over water.” I should imagine that we are closer to the edge now, two decades on, than we were in 1995, when Mr Serageldin uttered those words.

So what is to be done? There’s only so much and we are going through them like there’s no tomorrow.

Alternative

A few years back, Singapore set up a water recycling plant – not just any water, mind you, but its sewage. That very same black and putrid smelling water we vault over chasms to avoid getting on our shoes! But with the help of the latest in technology, the country managed to clean it up and make it safe enough for human consumption. Inspired! So what has that got to do with us, you ask? Well, did you catch the Delhi CM sipping delicately from a glass of water, recently? Guess where he got that from? If you can get over your initial “ICK!” factor, I think you’ll agree that this is an amazing solution. We generate enough and more wasted water – imagine if we can clean the hell out of that!

So, what do you think? What ideas do you follow to save water in your area?

 

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How To Save Water: 5 Easy Tips

A few days earlier, residents of my neighbourhood got a worrisome email. It was from the head of the local association and the after sundry information about stray dogs and what have you, he rounded off the missive with updates regarding our water situation. The upshot of it was, no surprises for guessing, the groundwater levels were rapidly depleting and great care must be exercised by all if we had to last till the rains arrive later in the year.

With the summer sun still beating down mercilessly upon us in Chennai and its surroundings (the temperatures this week have been touching 42 deg C!) and no rains in sight, it is up to each and every one of us to use water wisely and ensure we have enough to last us till the end of the season.

So what can we do to ensure we do not deplete our finite reserves of water?

1. Ditch the hose pipe

Granted, they are easy to water your plants but do you know that you waste a ridiculous amount of water this way? The easiest – and environment-friendliest way is by filling a bucket of water and using a measured quantity of water per plant. This way, you do not over-water your plants and end up slowing things right down and spending more time with them. Win-win, I call it!

2. Bucket list

In fact, a bucket and mug are your best friends when it comes to watching your water usage. Be it for bathing purposes, cleaning or any other kind, having a bucket of water versus turning the taps on is a no-brainer. By using a bucket, by making sure there is only a finite quantity of water to play with, you are right away putting the brakes on your water wastage.

3. Re-use, recycle

Be it your RO (reverse osmosis) water filters or repurposing the water you used to do your washing, you can always come up with creative ways of reusing water. The filtered out water can be collected in a container and you can use this water to swab your floor, wash your bathrooms etc. Using ethical cleaning products such as those made from organic soapberries and chemical-free ingredients makes it possible to reuse the water (yes, even that from your washing machine!) to water your plants.

4. Taps on, Taps off

It may seem like a minor thing but keeping your taps turned off while brushing your teeth and doing your daily toilette saves enormous quantities of water. Keeping a mug of water handy for washing off purposes and voila, you are golden!

5. Rainwater harvesting

Many multi-dwelling blocks in Chennai follow this already, thanks to the drive created by a political party a few years back. Let us not forget the water pouring out of your air-conditioning units – collect this water in containers and use it to clean your car, why don’t you?

These are just a few of the methods you can utilise to save your precious water. Do you have any more ideas for saving water? If so, share your ideas in the comments below.

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Time’s Running Out – Or Has It Already?

Time's running out...

Every day, my social media feed is filed with many doom-laden articles, predicting the end of everything as we know it. End of the world. Asteroid crash. Depletion of natural resources. Climate change. Extinction of yet another beautiful animal.

It may sound a bit too doom-and-gloom for many people out there but the reality is that we are on a fast track to the end of days and even doing an about-face at this stage of the game is not going to change the outcome. Rather like termites ripping through the wood they make their homes in, we humans are eating, chewing and spitting out this beautiful world we occupy and we don’t seem too fazed at the thought of the whole thing falling about our ears like a pack of cards.

Along with most natural resources, we are fast running out of clean and safe water. Water is an essential resource. A human will not survive for more than three days without consuming water; at around the fifth day mark, the organs will shut down and that will be it for the person. Still, we don’t seem to be too bothered about this and are happily dumping our raw sewage in clean water sources, polluting the source and the ground water for ever.

We visit a number of housing developments as a part of our job; gated communities housing hundreds of families are our biggest consumer base as they buy tanker loads of water for their daily use and as such, are open to any and all suggestions to keep track of their consumption and bills.

One of the site visits we went to was this beautiful community not too far from a smallish lake, far away from the city centre. It was a picturesque location, one that must have done most of the selling for the builder. What shocked us upon arrival was the information that, despite having a lovely water body on their doorstep, the community still bought their water. Despite having a lake within spitting distance, the residents still paid money and bought water as said water body and the ground water was totally contaminated. 

How did that happen, you ask?

As is typical around these parts, where the government is yet to lay down water and  sewage facilities, tankers carry in water and another lot pump out the sewage and carry them out, to be disposed of safely. Only, safe disposal isn’t really what we’ll call what happens. Many of these tanks carrying raw sewage just drive out far enough to get away from the densely populated areas and dump the contents of their truck in the open. Polluting the water source for ever.

As more and more areas get developed, the once-pristine-now-messed-up-forever areas are slowly becoming sought after locations for building the next new development. With a totally unusable water table. Result? The spanking-new apartment might look over a lake but the water in it is totally unfit and what’s more, pure poison.

This is just one example of what is happening to our surroundings, thanks to the short-sightedness of our fellowmen. What we don’t seem to realise is that our actions have an ever-lasting and long-reaching impact. Let me put it this way: imagine the world as it was when your grandfather was born. Look around you today and try to imagine what it would like when your grandchild takes his first breath.

If he can take breath in the waste land we are leaving him.

Let us try to reduce the rate in which we are going through the vastly limited natural resources. Recycle, reuse. Let us bring down the pollution a few notches. We may have lost the war but we can win a few skirmishes to stem the tide.

Save water. Stop pollution. Be more aware of your actions and their repercussions.

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Pint-sized Juicers Help Locals Beat The Heat

BEAT THE HEATFor the past couple of weeks, a bunch of children no older than 11, have been industriously trying to help their fellow citizens beat the heat. Every Saturday, from 4.00 pm onwards, this delightful group, whose youngest member is not even 5, make fresh juices, and give them to members of the public.

Did I mention it was all free of charge?

Hard to believe, isn’t it? That was the reaction of most of the passers-by, when the squeaky voices urged them to halt and quench their thirst with their choice drinks. All made from pure, filtered water and containing no additives, the fresh juices and spiced buttermilk proved to be manna from heaven for the weary walkers of Besant Nagar.

Parents trundling with their young children, old grandmas carrying heavy bags, construction workers taking a break from their arduous day, studious older children zooming past in their bikes to tuition classes and badminton lessons, aayaahs and watchmen, none could escape the eager voices shouting “Juice! Juice! Fresh juice!” and stopped by with a ready smile and eager questions for the young juice dispensers.

Juice!!

While their mothers kept a watchful eye on their charges from the background, ensuring the youngsters didn’t venture too close to the traffic in their enthusiasm, the children had a field day, trying to outdo one another in promoting their juice to everyone. As each of them made and brought one flavour each, they were all eager to see that their juice outsold the others. Thus, puzzled drivers were accosted with “Watermelon juice! Lemon juice! Buttermilk!” and a hushed voice going “Ma! How do you say sweet lime in tamil?” and then belting out the answer!

The idea is the brainchild of Ayshwarya, mum of 7 year old M. Growing up, her parents had encouraged her motley gang of friends to do similar activities to beat the summer heat (and boredom, in one inspired swoop!) and she fondly reminisced about the time when she and her friends stopped a bus and offered fresh juices to a whole busload of passengers!

So, is this a regular thing? What are their plans? “Well, obviously the children are too young for us to plan long term”, said Lavanya, 5 year old S’s mother. “They are having fun doing this so we’ll go with it as for as long as we can.”

If you are planning to visit the Elliot’s Beach next Saturday, then swing by the juice stall at 4.00 or thereabouts. Directions, you ask? Just get to the road near the entrance to Kalakshetra colony and keep your ears tuned to high pitched shrieks and giggles announcing the day’s flavours! I guarantee that you will be charmed.

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Summer Vignettes

Two girls Carrying home pots of water

Carrying home pots of water

 

It was the summer I turned 9. I was staying with my maternal grandparents during the school’s annual vacation, that spanned 7 unimaginable weeks. 7 whole weeks, with nothing much to do, that seemed to spread undeterminably.

Without a TV to numb me to the passage of time, I spent a lot of it outdoors, doing one unplanned activity or another, with similarly occupied peers. One of my regular chores was to place the water pots in the queue in front of the water tank. This ugly black edifice, that stood like an ungainly giant in front of the gates to my grandparents’ house, was filled every day with a huge blue tank, that sloshed water even as it filled the black one with precious liquid for the bottom-half of our street.

West Mambalam, a suburb of Chennai, was under severe water shortage and as such, there was rationing, rather like a World War times Britain. Every household merited three pots of water, each costing anything between Rs 2 to Rs 5, per container. If you were lucky and were on good terms with the dispenser, you could buy one more, but that’s it! As the lady that dispensed water from the tank and collected the money was the one who did the housework for our landlord and as my granny was looked upon favourably by her as a good egg, we didn’t have to plead too much for the extra pot of water.

The placement of the water pot was crucial. Try as I might, I never could get there early enough to plonk ours at the top of the line, despite living right there! Cursing them and their pots, I always tried to place ours as close to the first pots as possible, stealing an inch or two at each pass. Doing this, without getting caught and without upending the other pots is something of an art, I tell you.

The timing of the arrival of the water lorry was arbitrary; one knew the rough time but in the days before mobile phones and with the Indian hatred for anything resembling a structure, the water’s arrival, much like anything, was in the lap of the gods. Woe betide you if you stepped out before the water was dispensed – your empty pots will be waiting outside the gates to welcome you home and neither love nor money will get you more water till the next time the water lorry came a’calling.

Life, to put simply, revolved around water.

If you thought for a second, that placement of the pots in regular queues indicated orderliness, you’d be wrong. Long before the water hose that was wrapped around the mouth of the black tank was loosened by the proper personnel and the water dispensing began, people would start thronging near their pots, jostling and pushing their way forward, pushing and shoving to the head of the queue. Fights would break out, pots would break and it would end in a phenomenal amount of din, till the last drop of water was taken away. Till the next day.

Through all this, you cannot help but notice the amount of water that got wasted – the rectangular cuboid shape of the water lorry that almost always had a faulty hinge that the water sloshed off the top and poured in rivulets as it was being transported; the hose pipe from the black tanks that always leaked water in a steady stream; the amount of water that got sloshed everywhere as the water was transferred from the lorry to the black tank; the water that leaked out of the hose as one pot was filled and the next was placed in its place…

You’d think that people that are ready to commit grievous body harm to their neighbours over a vessel of water would be more mindful of how precious each drop is and conserve it, and not waste it so much!

You’d be wrong.

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Happy Earth Day!

Did you know that April 22 is Earth Day? One day, out of the 365, dedicated to the planet we call home. Now that doesn’t seem like much, does it?

What does Earth Day mean, anyway and what are we celebrating? Traditionally, Earth Day is the day when year after year, more and more urgent calls for environmental changes are made and grim pictures of our future, with ever-dwindling supplies of natural resources, displayed, in an effort to jolt us into action.

Save Water! 

At VenAqua, we are all about conserving water, one of our most precious resources and this article on the USA Today, tells us how to save water by minimising domestic wastage and being a bit more aware of our consumption. Summer’s upon us and it is even more imperative that we not be cavalier about our usage.

Share The Earth! 

The Earth and all its resources belong to all of us that have made this planet home, not just us humans. Unfortunately, this is a fact we seem to forget and it is the animals and plants and the greater environment that pay the price of our capriciousness. Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world spread over 10,000 sq kilometres, a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, is now the scene of “unprecedented disaster”, thanks to the vast oil spill that happened when a vessel carrying furnace oil to a thermal power plant met with an accident, dumping its cargo into the heart of Sundarbans. The impact of this act will become more and more evident in the years to come, experts say. Our rough ride just got a great deal rougher!

The 2 degree difference

2 degree Celcius. That’s the distance between us and disaster. Between life as we know it and Lord knows what awaits us. If, thanks to our continuous mayhem, the temperature of the Earth goes up by 2 degrees Celcius, warming it up to unchartered territory, well, things will get a lot livelier than anticipated. Increasing water levels, horrific droughts, widespread deaths.

Utter chaos.

Makes you sit up and take note of all the “Climate Change” podcasts, doesn’t it?

This Earth Day, let us be better informed of the havoc we have wreaked on Planet Earth and start making changes, one at a time, before the sands run out. Let’s start small – is our neighbourhood doing all it can to save the planet? Get together and get started on the biggest resuscitation effort of your life.

It ain’t over yet but the time to act is now!

 

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Did You Know…?

 

….in India, less than a third of people have access to sanitation and over 186,000 children under five die from diarrhoeal diseases every year?*

….India is home to 17% of the world’s population. Of this, almost two-thirds do not have access to adequate sanitation?*

….according to the 2011 census, just three in ten people in the villages have access to bathroom facilities?*

….UNICEF reports state that 45% of children are stunted and 600,000 under five die each year, largely because of inadequate water supply and poor sanitation?

….by 2040, there might be no drinking water in India?

Now that you know, what are you going to do about it?

 

*WaterAid.org

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#SaveChennaiLake: Save Perumbakkam Lake

Water, that most precious commodity. Water, without which survival is impossible.

Have you heard of the “Rule of Threes”? According to it, a human being can survive without air for 3 minutes, without water for 3 days and without food for 3 weeks. You’d think we’d take better care of something without which we cannot live for more than 3 days.

But no. We go on blithely, dumping garbage hither and polluting the ground water thither, as if there’s an endless supply of this very finite resource.

One such source we have mucked up completely is the Perumbakkam Lake, in Chennai. Even four years back, it was  a water body teeming with birds and amphibians and nurturing a vital ecosystem. From a lake that spread over 100 acres, it has now shrunk to a twentieth of its size and is lying chocked with plastic waste and sewage. If the decline isn’t halted, this once lush birds paradise and a vital ground water resource will be lost to us forever.

Enter the Environmentalist Foundation of India.

By tapping into the generosity of the people, both local and elsewhere, EFI aims to save the Perumbakkam Lake and is looking to raise Rs. 5,00,000 for it. Let us all dig deep and contribute to this vital clean-up operation. Let us welcome back the lost birds and other fauna before they are lost to us forever.