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Water, water, not everywhere

Cape Town is running out of water; your city could be next

Water, water, not everywhere
Cape Town is running out of water. The water crisis is so bad that Day Zero or the day when taps in over a million homes in Cape Town run dry, is right around the corner, July 9, 2018. The people of this South African city have a daily limit of 50 litres of water per person. And within those restrictions, they have to manage the entire day's activities. Reusing and recycling water is routine. News reports say that mothers use baby's bath water to wash their hair, water used for washing clothes or utensils is used to fill up the toilet flush tank. Under-one-minute showers are normal and the situation is so acute that most sacrifice personal grooming; there are more important tasks to be done with the precious liquid. This strict rationing of water by residents helped Cape Town push Day Zero from June 4 to July 9.
Life without long showers and washing one's hair daily is unimaginable for most of us privileged folk. Forget one-minute showers, some of us are used to lounging in bathtubs soaking in the goodness of exotic bath salts. We use more water than is required for our everyday needs and waste even more. We leave taps running in homes and offices, overhead tanks overflow in residential colonies, taps provided by the municipal corporation are often faulty and leak. Water is invaluable and at the centre of the global crisis. But ignorant, we continue to behave irresponsibly. Unplanned urbanisation and reckless industrialisation have eroded the water table. Groundwater is not being replenished, water bodies are being filled in the name of growth, and factories continue to dump effluents into water bodies. India is among the 'highly water-stressed countries' in the world, according to the World Resources Institute.
We are not even talking about conserving water for future generations. The crisis is unfolding in our lifetime, as we speak. It is not just Cape Town, Day Zero is inching closer for many cities, including some in India. The Centre for Science and Environment released some alarming data ahead of World Water Day, which was on March 22. Over 200 cities across the world are facing water shortage including Bengaluru and Pune. In fact, by 2050, 36 per cent of all cities in the world will be facing a water crisis with urban demand for water increasing to a staggering 80 per cent.
The report also noted that over 400 million people already live in cities where there is a water problem all through the year, this number is likely to go up to 1 billion in next two decades. Along with Bengaluru, Beijing (China), Mexico City (Mexico), Sanaa (Yemen), Nairobi (Kenya), Istanbul (Turkey), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Karachi (Pakistan), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Kabul (Afghanistan) made it to the Top-10 list of water-starved cities that are facing 'Day Zero'.
So, what should we do? Let's become more socially aware and environmentally conscious. Push for rainwater harvesting and water treatment facilities where you live. Limit those leisurely showers and recycle water at home. Instruct domestic help and family members to use only as much water as is required. Protest the rapid urbanisation that is coming at the cost of filling up or dirtying water bodies. Ditch that cola because a half litre of any aerated drink consumes 175 litres of water! Your waistline will thank you for it as well. And if you are passing a tap that is running, take a second and please turn it off.
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Shutapa Paul

Shutapa Paul

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