Water, water everywhere, said the man. Coleridge,that was. He might have been right in his day… and in a way he’s right today as well. With global warming, there’s going to be enough water in the world all right, only, “not a drop to drink”.
Everyone says the next world war is going to be about water. But I’m actually not even talking about a global scale. Let’s just take Bangalore. I heard a while ago that the state government has given up even attempting to provide Cauvery water to whoever it is supposed to provide water to – I mean, areas where the Cauvery water is supposed to reach. It has given up and it has said, in effect, “let them eat cake”.
In this context, that means two things. One, if you aren’t getting Cauvery water, buy it from the tankers. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what that means. It means more and more Cauvery water gets siphoned off to the tanker businessmen, who then split the proceeds with the water supply guys. It also means that the water supply guys figure out that they might as well start charging residents a little something extra to supply the water which they are supposed to supply. Because, if they don’t supply water, then residents will have to pay the tanker fellows anyway, so why should only the tanker businessmen get rich?
The other thing it means is – if possible – even worse! It means, the state government is going to encourage people to sink borewells. This is truly horrible. Just when the government should be thinking about managing the ground water in a half-way sensible and organized way, they’re saying, oh what the heck, go ahead and rape it.
I’ve heard many a time of borewells going dry and people digging deeper and deeper to find water. The other day someone mentioned that water was found at a depth of 4000 ft. To be honest, I know nothing about what depth water should be found at and how bad, exactly, 4000 ft is. What I do know is that this kind of “every man for himself” policy is the worst thing the government can do when it comes to managing a scarce natural resource.
It’s easy to criticize and not so easy to come up with answers, I know. And I know I don’t have the answers. But I do have a question or two.
Why, why, why, are we doing nothing about conserving and recycling water? Why is there no awareness campaign. Surely people are feeling the pinch – I’ve seen people queueing up for water at neighbourhood taps; I’ve seen people pushing water through the streets on carts and cycles; I’ve seen the terrible proliferation of dirty, noisy, diesel-fume-pumping tankers in our neighbourhood, where people used to wash their driveways in Cauvery water. So it’s not as if there is no crisis, or as if the crisis is not right now. It is here and it is now. Why is nobody taking any notice of it?
Leh, for instance, has an acute water shortage all the time – mostly due to its geography. Practically the first thing I became aware of when I got off the plane, was posters plastered all over town telling people to conserve water. When your message is stamped on the bleary consciousness of a newly-arrived, oxygen-starved tourist, you know your message is getting across loud and clear.
In Bangalore? Nothing. No notices, no campaigns, no noise at all. There was a feeble drive towards rainwater harvesting, but that seems to have petered out as well. As for conservation – people behave as if they’ve never heard of the term. There is wanton, criminal volumes of water spent on washing driveways, to say nothing of cars. I know of people who bathe – proudly – two, three, four times a day. People encourage their kids to play with water. People run the washing machine when it has only two-and-a-half items in it. If there’s a tap running, nobody turns it off. If a pipe springs a leak, nobody cares. This, even in my own office, where there are people employed to deal with that sort of thing, and where water comes in tankers and is charged by the drop.
But then what about the tankers? They spill water so liberally on the way that by the time they reach their destination, they probably have only half a tankful. They still charge for the whole load, so they don’t care. The sooner it runs out, the sooner they get called in for the next load. And what are the state authorities doing about water shortage. Well, in our own backyard, practically, they’ve seen fit to tear up all the grass from the park and replace it with newly-planted grass, which they now water for hours on end, even though this is the monsoon season and anything green that can grow, grows – thrives – without needing any extra watering. Ok, I’m no horticulturist, so maybe I’ve got it all wrong and there’s a very good reason for planting and watering grass in this season, but still… people are queueing up for water, people are drinking muddy water! Do we really need to tear up grass in a park and plant new grass right now?
Sometimes I feel so impotent – there’s so much to be done, and all I do is write. Sigh.
*In this blog, I have mostly made a conscious decision not to comment on current affairs. But once in a while, on certain issues, I feel I must say something.