Addressing water crisis
As several Indian cities face water shortage, sticking to erroneous ways will make water the most sought after and fought over commodity
The best jig in the shower was performed by that 90s' kid, 'Rahul'. Don't remember Rahul? Let me jog your memory. A kid prepares to take a bath and turns on the shower that continues to run targeted on a bar of soap. Rahul, though is busy setting the mood with a German music group, Snap's 'The power' playing on his portable red cassette player. Rahul's dance moves to 'I've got the power' are a joy to watch even as his irritated mother's voice breaks the performance… 'Rahul, paani chala jaayega' (Rahul, water will run out). Unperturbed, Rahul revs up the volume. But before long, the water runs out leaving Rahul high and dry. The hero of the campaign is that resilient bar of soap, which simply refuses to give. Remember that advertisement? Yes, that's the one that many of us have aped in empty bathrooms. However, neither Rahul nor we can anymore claim to have that 'water' power.
Keeping in step with the changing times, brands have moved away from advertisements projecting flowing, wasted water. A recent campaign interestingly showed a glass shower box placed in the middle of an arid village. Instead of enjoying a luxurious shower like Rahul, the villagers started drinking the water. The voiceover proclaimed that half the village drank that water that would have been used in a single person's long shower.
A lot has changed in India in the last three decades between Le Sancy's soap ad and Hindustan Unilever's "The Shower". Water is scarce in many parts of the country and by the time we woke up to this impending crisis, the clock has turned fast. Obviously, the worst-hit are the cities and towns. The Indian government says that 17 per cent of Indian cities and towns are affected by dearth of water. Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Karnataka are all affected; Tamil Nadu leads the pack with citizens routinely dependent on water tankers. For the first time in 18 years, Chennai is receiving water from other places. Vellore has dispatched 50,000 litres for the state capital. Delhi and Bengaluru are other cities left in a similar quandary.
Looking ahead, if we keep sticking to our erroneous ways, this precious commodity will also become the most sought after and fought over, in the world. Irresponsible wastage of water, obsolete techniques of agriculture, pollution of water bodies, and global warming are all contributing to water deficiency. The Central government and some states have thankfully started discussing the issue but awareness programmes are still a long time away. An urgent relook at agriculture is definitely needed. Regions that grapple with water scarcity shouldn't produce water-intensive crops such as rice, cotton, and sugarcane. Efficient, water-saving methods of irrigation also need to be expediently used. An Observer Research Foundation article suggests that drip and sprinkler systems, sub-surface irrigation, precision farming etc. would contain the usage of water.
I was also shocked to learn from a news report that India leads the virtual water exports (water used in the production of exported goods) with 95.4 billion cubic metres every year, ahead of countries such as Brazil, Russia, US and Canada, who are infinitely better placed with regard to this crucial resource. China, however, was at eleventh position till 2016, with a virtual water trade surplus in crop and animal products. Their policies and agricultural methods have aided in bridging the virtual water trade deficit.
And what should you and I do? Stop wastage of water, fix leaks, turn off taps and urge others to do so as well, instruct domestic staff to use water judiciously and invest in rainwater harvesting. Maybe we will be able to use desalinated water soon like Israel but while newer alternatives are bound to open up, we must still try to limit wastage of water, and start protecting the earth that we are leaving behind for future generations.
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)