Why Aren’t We Doing Anything About Water?*

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.

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6 Responses to Why Aren’t We Doing Anything About Water?*

  1. Supriya says:

    At least you write and reach several people. Hopefully it will have an effect somewhere. I agree with everything you’ve said – and Prakash will agree more. He’s been trying to set up rainwater harvesting for another building here for the past several months. And things are moving at a snail’s pace – and then not even that. Very very tragic actually. No one really cares.

  2. Prakash says:

    I am fed up of apathy of general public and government here. Chennai has improved its water situation purely by better water management.

    By the way, 4000 Ft is way too below, you may hit oil if you are in the right place :-). In places like Bangalore you will hit dry igneous bedrocks more than 900-1000 Ft. Any water below 400 -600 Ft is fossilised ground water – very old and in ideal cases should should be left alone..

    Water management and rain water harvesting is the need of the day..

  3. Arun says:

    I suppose it must be 400ft that they went for. Its not fair to blame the government on water or any other issue related to the ever increasing population of bangalore. Any green programs or policies that we try is just a way to wipeoff the guilt feel from our face and keep hunting the nature. Bangalore was calm & clean and was sure a romantic place. Its the people who jumped from all over India into this tiny little place and created the mess. Either people should giveup and go back to their respective hometowns and lead a low profile life like their mom & dad did. Thats not going to happen right? 🙂 By typical Indian nature, we always wait for the leader..wo dont do it ourselves. So let the Corporates take the responsibilities. The modern Corporates of the India Inc are the ones who picked people from all over Indian and dumped into this tiny place and sucking money through them. Let them form groups and take ownership of providing food/water/shleter/mass transport for the people they picked. Let them comeup with a self-sufficient high-tech system that does not demand anything that spoils the local resources..let them do the clean-up job and bring back the same old romantic Bangalore. Nobody stops them doing it right? are they blind? Why are they just throwing the ball to the government and keep sucking the money?
    For example, every company has this green program which teaches employees to harvest rain water.. but do that company do the harvesting by itself? all they do is cement their base..tar their parking lot and flood the nearby drainage! If you calculate the office spaces occupied by all the companies in blr and the amount of rain blr receives, if they do the rain water harvesting, no individual citizen or government need to worry about drinking water.

  4. poupee97 says:

    Supriya: Trouble is, I seem to be preaching to the choir here. That’s not what we need!

    Prakash: Oil! Well, that might be good, but you can’t wash your clothes in it… But I passed on your comment to the person who mentioned 4000 ft, and he said he probably said 1800 ft. So maybe I escalated it by 2x, but whatever! Apparently even at 1800 ft it is fossilized water – which sounds fascinating, by the way. But sad.

  5. poupee97 says:

    Arun: Let’s agree that “back to the fields” or “back to nature” or “back to cave man” is not the solution. I also grant that population pressure is the problem. I’m not sure I agree that “send non-Bangaloreans back to where they came from” is the solution, because it is retrograde and politically influenced and it is not true that it is the source of all evil in this overcrowded city.

    As for getting corporates to do some of the work – It is not a bad idea, but one could also argue that corporates pay whatever taxes the government requires and their duty ends there. Now the government has to decide what to charge and how to use the funds. If they need more funds, they should charge more. If they think the solution is to send corporates away, they should charge unreasonable taxes and fees. But having got the money they demand, they have to use it sensibly. Do you think they do that?

    Besides, don’t a lot of offices buy water? My office has tankers coming in every day. So then why do they owe anything to a government which is not even providing them with water?

    My point was, it doesn’t cost a lot to start an awareness drive. We’ve done it other things. Look at the awareness campaign for swine flu – there were hoardings everywhere telling people to wash their hands. Could they not do the same thing for water conservation? At least to get people thinking about how to save water?

  6. Arun says:

    Government will do awareness campaign if the pressure builds up. If there is more pressure, they will comeup with some other ‘better’ policy..they know exactly what to do when and thats why they are in seat. But its going to be a long waiting game for us to believe the government to happen something remarkable.
    What i was talking abt is a quick & proven solution for all the issues not just water. Say a company lands in blr with 1000 man power, let it land with a proper plan to accommodate every need. If it is not having resources to handle the need, let it join a group which provides the same..a system in place which takes care of the need. Something like a Sattelite city. It works in countries where government is active. Even bangalore has sattelite cities made for IT industry(Bidadi is one of 5)..but its never going to work if we just wait for the government. Let the corporates take ownership of the sattelite cities allocated for bangalore and start providing the need.

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