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.




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.


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.


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.