Charity begins at home, so should conservation of water
Ngayaipam A Shimray
We realize the value of time when we miss the bus in the nick of time. We realize the value of health when we are on a sickbed. We miss the sun when it begins to rain. We never know the true value of water until the pond is dry.
In the name of industrialization, urbanization, and development, the nectar of life, the lifeline of humanity, the backbone of civilization- the rivers have become big drainages. As we know, "where there is man, there is mess." The waste created by people is all thrown into the rivers. If this continues there will be no fresh water to irrigate our fields or even to drink. When we preserve water, we preserve life. According to NITI Aayog Composite Water Management Index(CWMI) June 2018 Currently, 600 million Indians face severe water shortage; 75% of households do not have access to drinking water, 84% rural households do not have pipe water access; 70% of our water is contaminated. As per the report, India is ranked 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index. By 2020, 21 major cities will run out of groundwater. And the crisis is only going to worsen with India's water demand to be increased by twice the available supply by 2030 and 40% of the population won't have access to drinking water which may lead to 6% loss in the country's GDP.
India accounts for about 17% of the world population according to 2011 census but has only 4% of global fresh water. Over the years, the demand for fresh water has been increasing but not the supply. In spite of the warning from experts, many continue to adopt a crop pattern that is not congruent with the agro-climatic characteristics of a region. According to water experts Marathwada region in Maharashtra, which is recently in the news, will become a desert in the near future if adequate steps are not taken. Prof Desarda said that crops like sugarcane which guzzle huge quantity of water has been used by the political elites as a powerful instrument for building and retaining its voter base. Politics without ethics is a disaster. Alanis Obomsawin was right when she said: "When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money."
The thirst for power, the love for money has driven us mad. We need to remind ourselves that generations have lived without money but none without water.
Ohh... Why should we travel that far when we have ample examples in our own region; Nambul River in Manipur which flows through the heart of Imphal City, the Mighty Brahmaputra in Assam, Lukha river and Myntdu river in Meghalaya have all become polluted in the process of so-called industrialisation and urbanization. These rivers where many of us spent our childhood- swimming, fishing, playing, sharing lots of memories, have turned into big drainage.
There has been neither significant effort at harvesting rainwater nor any thought of replenishing the groundwater table. The irony is that the Northeastern States in spite of receiving heavy rainfall still faces water shortage in the months of February and March which continues until the arrival of monsoon. This trend has been continuing over the past few years yet there is hardly any action at any level to solve the problem. In spite of the heavy rainfall, the people in Northeastern States still spend thousands of rupees to buy water because of poor water resource management. The residence in Ukhrul, a district in Manipur, during the dry months (Feb- May) dish out 1000 rupees for 1000 litres of water.
However, there may still be room for optimism. The Central Government has created a Ministry of Jal Shakti in May 2019 with a full-fledged Cabinet Minister. With it, the Government has launched the Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA)- a campaign for water conservation and water security. The JSA will run in two phases-
Phase I: From 1st July to 15th September 2019 for all States and Union Territories
Phase II: From 1st October to 30th November 2019 for States with retreating monsoon( Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Puducherry, and Tamil Nadu). The JSA aims at making water conservation a Jan Andolan through asset creation and extensive communication.
The Central Government will assist and work with district administration in 1592 water stressed blocks in 256 districts, to ensure five important water conservation interventions. These will include-water conservation and rainwater harvesting; renovation of traditional and other water bodies or tanks; reuse and recharge structures; watershed development and intensive afforestation.
These water conservation efforts will also be supplemented with special interventions including the Development of Block and District Water Conservation Plans; promotion of efficient water use for irrigation and a better choice of crops through Krishi Vigyan Kendras; Urban Water Reuse; Scientists and IITs to be mobilized at the national level to support the teams.
The Government has taken an ambitious project to solve the water crisis in the country. But, will it be enough? Can the Government do it alone ? To solve the problem of water crisis all the stakeholders- Government, NGOs, Civil Societies, Students, Citizens, Young and old have to come together and be a part of the Solution. The current approach is from top to bottom where the Central Government takes the lead but we also need to build a bridge and encourage local participation. It's our responsibility to create awareness, to teach our children and family members about conservation. The wisdom filled book of King Solomon, Proverbs 22:6 advise us
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Let us challenge ourselves to plant at least a tree this season, to create awareness at home, to reuse, reduce and recycle, to conserve water resources for when we heal the mother nature, we heal ourselves. The alarm is long gone and we have a lot of catching up to do. Yes! The Challenges are enormous, but I do Believe that if little drops of water can make the mighty ocean; if little grains of sand can make the pleasant land; then our little efforts humble though it may be can make a mighty change.