Archive for July, 2013


In his theory of evolution, Darwin stated that “life started in water, it is then evident that it can even end in the absence of water.”

ImageWater is one of the most crucial components on earth which brings life to us but subject to human nature, we tend to take it for granted. Today, most of the world is facing a shortage of clean water and industrialisation, increasing population and climate changes are adding up to the severity of this problem. The agriculture industry completely depends on water supplies for irrigation, which then provides the second most essential necessity for life – food. The increasing population and rising standard of living in the metros has increased the per capita consumption of water, but we fail to realise that water as a renewable resource does not really renew as fast as we are consuming it. The uneven and disturbed rain patterns around the globe and melting glaciers increase the risk further. The natural peril can never be controlled but can be managed for good; we see floods and melting ice packs in a lot of areas every year, but it is a disgrace that all this water goes waste. If we could walk the moon decades ago, we can at least manage our water resources to build a sustainable future.

India, where agriculture is the most dominant source of employment – a farmer dies of thirst; and a farmer even commits suicide because of persistent droughts. In some areas, the only time water seen is in the eyes, and that too is saline. African continent, fairly rich with water resources, thousands die because of poor quality of water. In China, floods for four months in a year still leaves back stressed usable water sources. A lot more nations today suffer from water scarcity and most of these nations are rapidly developing nations with a high economic growth rate. The problem is that the world today is centred on things like nuclear power, FOREX reserves, oil blocks, etc.

The scarcity of clean water is purely a case of mismanagement and lack of vision in this area of problem, it is not that we can’t do anything about it; it is just that we are not doing anything. There have been some initiatives by the government to rectify the problem but as usual they are still bonded hard to the papers. Speaking of India, the water quadrilateral scheme was introduced in late 90s where a manmade channel would have connected the country and managed the demand and supply of water, in accordance to the droughts and floods. Rain-water harvesting, glacier channels and a lot more, technology and human intelligence have so much to offer to a solution to this problem, but we are not directing our forces there.

The systems alone are not sufficient to solve the problem; it is more about individual realization and efforts. Now is the time we stop wasting and start saving. Each of us no matter in which country state or city, no matter how developed or undeveloped; have to start managing water be it in natural environment, households, workplaces, manufacturing units – everywhere!!

Keep in mind, when God promised the daily bread, he never mentioned anything about water – that is something we have to take care of.

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Most of us who are reading this blog have not faced the water crisis often. But there are people across the world who do not have access to clean water. On one side there are people who do not face any problem and use water for taking showers, dishwashers, flushing etc. And on the other side there are people who collect water from rivers and lakes by spending several hours in a day. According to World Health Organisation report, 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to clean water- that’s approximately one in six people on the earth.

There is Colorado River in North western Mexico where people’ s livelihood was based upon the river. The natives fished for corvine, a type of sea bass, which they used to eat thrice a day. In 1922, representatives from the seven US states decided to build dams and canals to get water and power to growing cities. Now the place has become a dusty town and hardly there are any fishes. There is no fertile land nearby. The water for drinking comes by truck.

The Ogalla Aquifer, the largest Aquifer in the western North American region. It supplies 81% of the water in the high plains area of the US. The aquifer is recharged mainly through precipitation in the spring and summer months. But the withdrawal rate of water from the Ogalla Aquifer is too much higher as compared to recharge rate.

 Africa is blessed with large rivers like Nile, Congo etc. In sub Saharan Africa, hundreds of millions of people suffer from a lack of access to clean, safe water. Women and girls fetch the water from streams from streams and ponds. 14 countries in Africa are experiencing water issues and 11 more countries are expected to face water issues by 2025.

In India, the situation is even worse due to rapid growth in population. India has been endowed with freshwater reserves but overuse of water over the past few years has resulted in clean water scarcity. A research report indicates that by 2025, India and China will continue to the largest countries facing water stress.

According to UN reports due to lack of clean water more than 30,000 children under 5 years of age die from diarrhea and other water related diseases. Without water we cannot do anything. It is the need of  hour to understand the gravity of the situation.

As we all know that only 1% of water is fresh water which is accessible and 0.007% is available for drinking. Broadly we can divide the factors which affect clean water availability into 3 themes:

  • Pollution
  • Climate
  • Water Management

Pollution

When water bodies get contaminated either directly or indirectly through various chemicals or waste, we call it water pollution. Water pollution is globally an ecological threat to humanity. If we do not control it, we might lose all clean water that is available to us. The source of pollution can be from various places; from industries to farming or even a simple place like our home. 

 

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In this world of heavy industrialization with so many factories and plants coming up every day, we release pollutants in form of waste and chemicals. Though there are various norms and policies introduced to safeguard clean water, it is still difficult to manage and control water pollution. Most of us think that only surface water gets contaminated but it’s not true, even ground water can get contaminated. Ground water gets contaminated if regular or constant release of chemicals occur into the soil.  As we all know, India’s primary sector is agriculture. Nowadays, while farming, many farmers utilize pesticides and fertilizers. During irrigating of farm lands, excess water is removed through various drainage systems, which somehow finds itself mixing with various clean water bodies. Water pollution is not for humans, but also for the animals and plants. Many industries release their waste and chemicals into the ocean thinking it’s not affecting the eco-system, but they forget the various life forms living in the ocean. 

Climate Change

Global warming poses a huge threat to availability of clean water and over the years, global warming has been on the rise. Due to global warming, mountain snow caps and glaciers are melting at an early stage which will reduce the availability of water at a future time period. Heavy water flow will lead to rise of sea water level, which in return will result in saltwater entering clean water bodies. Also, due to heavy rain and bad weather, municipal sewers will get flooded and overflow which will result in sewage water mixing with the available clean water. So, we can see that a climate change can hugely affect the availability of clean water. 

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Water Management

 When resources become limited, management becomes the key to deal with the crisis. It starts from a simple act of saving water with your day to day utilities. From brushing your teeth to washing your clothes, minimum water needs to be utilized, which ensures hygiene with minimum wastage of water, i.e. proper water management. However, in reality, people do come across the concept of water crisis and may debate on various issues without really doing much to solve the crisis. It’s time for us to act on our own and save every drop of water so as to ensure adequate availability of clean water in the near future. 

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If resources are limited, utmost importance should be given on managing it, because even when resource is plenty, careless behaviour, i.e. mismanagement can lead to scarcity of the same resource.

The water you drink today has been around, in one form or another, for billions of years. While the amount of freshwater on the planet has remained fairly constant over time, the population has exploded. This means that every year competition for a clean, copious supply of water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and sustaining life intensifies. A growing population, changing weather patterns and water-borne diseases has led to a shortage of clean water.

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Water scarcity may be an abstract concept to many but it is a stark reality for others. It is the result of a myriad of environmental, political, economic, and social forces. Nearly 70% of the world is covered by water, yet only 2.5% of it is fresh; the rest is saline and ocean-based. Just 1% of our freshwater is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields. In essence, only 0.007% of the planet’s water is available to fuel and feed its 7 billion people. In much of the developing world, clean water is hard to come by, often requiring laborious work or significant currency to obtain. Often arsenic and other naturally occurring poisonous pollutants found in groundwater aquifers contaminate water supplies in addition to the toxic contaminants people discharge. Household water usually accounts for less than 5% of total water use. Most of the water humans’ use is for agriculture and industry. 

Every day in rural communities and poor urban centres throughout sub-Saharan Africa, hundreds of millions suffer as they are forced to gather water from streams and ponds – full of water-borne disease that make them and their families sick.

According to WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) estimates, released in early 2013, 2.5 billion people lack improved sanitation facilities, and 768 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more.

Poor sanitation, water and hygiene have many other serious repercussions. Children, particularly girls, often do not avail their right to education because their schools lack private and decent sanitation facilities. Poor farmers and wage earners are less productive due to illness, thus health systems are overwhelmed and national economies suffer.

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Reality bites:

  • 32 million people in Latin America and Caribbean, 345 million people in Africa, 196 million people in South, West, and Central Asia, 200 million people in Southeast, East Asia and Oceania and 10 million people in developed countries do not have access to water.
  • 3.4 million people die each year from water related diseases.Most migrating to urban centers, move to informal settlements (i.e. slums) with no sanitation facilities.
  • An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average daily consumption of a person in a developing country slum.
  • Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among children under five in the world. Around 1.5 million deaths each year are caused by diarrhea. Half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
  •  Approximately 10% of the global disease burden could be reduced through improved water supply, sanitation, hygiene, and water resource management.
  • Only 10% of waste water gets treated, the rest goes into our lakes, rivers and oceans.

This situation is no longer bearable. In a recent news article in Hindustan Times (http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Delhi-Metro/Experts-slam-Jal-Board-s-water-testing-parametres/Article1-1084547.aspx.), water and health experts have raised doubts about Delhi Jal Board’s (DJB) claim of supplying pure water.

If you are still not satisfied, these links provide some shocking perspectives:

And you thought ‘that’ water was clean! Well, think again. The situation is not getting any better. According to the World Water Vision Report, “There is a water crisis today. But the crisis is not about having too little water to satisfy our needs. It is a crisis of managing water so badly that billions of people – and the environment – suffer badly”. If you agree, feel free to comment.