We celebrated March 22 as World Water Day. India has the world’s highest number of people without access to clean water, imposing a major financial burden for some of the country’s poorest people. Water is an essential building block of life. But it is more than just essential to quench thirst or protect health; water is vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development. Water is the base on which our life is built. Day by day, it is becoming clear that water is going to be the biggest casualty of the modern development process. It is ironic that nature’s gift to humans is available only for money these days. We are forced to buy clean drinking water after having polluted every known source. Rain, rivers, and wells have been man’s traditional sources of fresh water. Global warming upsets natural patterns of rainfall. Rivers are slowly killed at their sources by steady destruction of forests and the construction of big dams, and overdevelopment of groundwater. Unless water is used equitably, and in a non-partisan manner, playing with it may prove to be riskier than playing with fire.
Many people are forced to turn to an alternative in order to access water, due to the price or simply the issue of accessibility, but using dirty water comes with consequences and causes countless illnesses each year. There are about 3,15,000 children who die from diarrhea each year, 1,40,000 of which occur in India.
Poor management of water resources is the biggest problem holding India back. Misappropriation in the planning and execution of water supply projects is another key factor. Water resources are under severe stress today. About one-fifth of the world’s aquifers have almost dried up and a large number of traditional water bodies such as tanks, ponds, and lakes are depleting at a frightening pace.
Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.
Today, almost half of the world’s workers — 1.5 billion people — work in water-related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery. Floating agricultural techniques, fisheries, hydropower generation, boating in lakes and rivers, and water mills in the mountains, to name a few, are the sources of jobs created by water.
What would the world do without fresh water? We need it to hydrate our bodies, it’s in the food we eat and the beverages we drink. We use it to clean ourselves, our clothes, our dishes, our cars and everything else around us.
Water is the foundation for all aspects of human and societal progress. While we need to ensure access to safe water for 1.8 billion people who do not have it today, we must also manage the global rise in demand for water from growing economies by increasing water productivity and find incentives for using it more effectively.
According to the experts, climate change has exacerbated the situation by creating uncertainty about future water availability and water security. The groundwater situation is not rosy at all, but in the long run, the slowly progressing Rain Water Harvesting scheme may improve the situation, believe experts.
We must remember that World Water Day is celebrated just to bring your focus to the issue, which is reaching crisis proportions. Water conservation initiatives should not remain a mere slogan. We need to keep that water flowing in our taps and into our homes and what better way than to be a mover and shaker or rather a saver, in your own little way? A growing population and a consumptive lifestyle add to the depression. Development cannot be reversed. However, the technology could be reoriented to serve the dual purpose of conserving water and regulating its use. We have to pay attention to the importance of fresh water and be able to maintain the management of freshwater resources. Don’t we think to leave aside global solutions; something should be done at the national and regional levels.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)