Water crisis is not confined to hot months of the year impacting few geographical locations. Over four billion people live with water scarcity, which upsets livelihoods and breaks down ecosystems. Pollutants pierce freshwater from agriculture, industry, and domestic sources, often with no treatment. It severely contaminates water.
Freshwater biodiversity has dwindled sharply. About 20 per cent of fish species have gone extinct or are threatened. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report has constantly graded water crises as one of the global risks with highest impact.
Chennai is facing one of its worst water crises in about 75 years. The reason—the returning monsoon missed the coastal metropolis in November-December 2018. Consequently, it triggered severe drought-like conditions, increasing water use and misuse by the city’s residents.
The case of Bengaluru is in the same league. Rapid urbanization over the years coupled with a rising population and poor water management have led to drying taps, declining groundwater levels and filth-frothed lakes.
The situation in other cities and big towns in India are not much better. The job opportunities have grown in these places. But millions have no piped water and instead rely on an army of privately-run tankers that draw water from wells inside and outside the city and deliver it to homes. Many dig unauthorised private wells in search of water for drinking, bathing, laundry and other daily needs.
The technological advancement of pumps in India has also played its bit—though adversely. As a result, what’s happening across the country is groundwater mining, not extraction. The replenishment would be a challenge.
Every citizen, therefore, has to imbibe the 4Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink—to prevent a catastrophe. The rooftop rain water harvesting is a proven model to recharge the ground water. Another commendable initiative is KJ Antoji’s Rainwater Syringe Technique that he has refined in the past three decades.
A resident of the coastal village of Chellanam, Kochi in Kerala, Antoji conceptualised a water harvesting system that could store fresh rainwater several metres below sea level for future use. It helped several resorts, hundreds of farmers and independent houses harvest and conserve water in Kerala. It also drew students from IISC, Bengaluru to study the system. Rainwater syringes are the most efficient only at sea levels. As a result, places like Kerala, Andaman and Gujarat benefit from them.
Even common sense can make significant impact. Vinit Taneja, a resident of Panchsheel Park, New Delhi, started serving half a glass of water at his house in early 2018. Six months later, he thought of testing his idea outside his home on a large scale, where the impact would be significant on the environment.
He shared a video depicting his idea with Patu Keswani, owner of Lemon Tree Group of Hotels, now the third largest hotel chain in India, with a request to explore implementation in his chain. “To his credit, he took it up. His training organization educated across the chain and they created the message in the table standee to help customers understand the reason for serving half a glass,” says Taneja.
The benefits of introducing such an idea in Lemon Tree are mindboggling. “I checked with Patu and understood that the saving was approximately 100 ml in each of the 10,000 plus glasses served across the hotel chain daily. This is a whopping 3.65 lakh litres plus every year with one small idea,” he beams.
Many of us have the luxury of living where clean water runs freely from the tap. But the truth is we are enjoying these luxuries at the cost of others. We have to care for water wherever it is being used. Your water footprint, after all, is just as important as your carbon footprint.
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