Awareness is the key to happiness and enlightenment but when ignorance is embraced by millions, the consequences can be fatal for mankind. Rivers are drying, people are dying of thirst, forests are depleting at a rapid pace, the earth’s temperature is increasing with every passing year, the existence of polar ice in the future is questionable and breathing fresh air is a thing of the past now. Meetings, seminars, conferences and research papers on these issues are useful but they have not borne fruitful results. The effective methodologies to address serious concerns about the environment are still under progress because people are still ignorant about the surging danger ahead of us.
“When people were illiterate, they knew how to use natural resources; they created an awareness regarding preservation based on their belief system. Everyone strived to preserve resources. Today’s so-called ‘educated’ people are taught not to spit in public places and to check this, we need to employ officials. That is ridiculous! How can we keep someone from wasting natural resources? After all, we are all free, aren’t we? We are headed towards a chaotic future,” says Mr Raj Kumar Sharma, a former official in Indian Air Force. Now try to understand this:
1. Ponds were an essential part of any of the Indian village’s ecosystem – animals took their baths and fulfilled their need for water via these ponds. Wells were also common sights near ponds. Canals nearby recharged the ponds and likewise, ponds helped to recharge the water level of the well. There was always a mutual agreement between the farmers to allow water from the canals to fill the ponds. On a surprising note, ponds and wells have no water left today. My recent visit to my own village shocked me.
2. With the advent of new irrigation and water supply system, large water reservoirs were built in most of the villages and through pipelines, water connection was provided to each household. Suddenly, ponds and wells became useless. With an obvious note, they started drying. These modern irrigation and water supply systems work on proper canal water supply. In summer, canal water supply lessens which makes the whole system fail.
3. Animals are dying because the wells and ponds are already dead. No mutual agreement among farmers to recharge their own ponds is functional; indeed, farmers use extensive underground water from bore wells for their harvest. Business-minded people started their water business, selling water through water tankers. This water comes from the earth. People with obvious daily needs of water buy the water at a very high price. In my own village, where the water supply is halted so much, each household buys water campers at ₹20/- each. They also had to call for water tankers at ₹300/- for 4,000 liters of water. They are all ready to pay money but never ever look into the wells.
We had people who used to think about the local ecosystem and tried to preserve them. Now, we also have those people who are making money by exploiting the natural resources. People are genuinely not aware about the danger, otherwise, their behaviour wouldn’t be so complacent. A report from the Central Water Commission says, “The country’s 91 major reservoirs have a total of 27.66 billion cubic meters (BCM) stored in them as on May 31. This is just about 17% of the total storage capacity. The river basins of the Indus, the Tapi, the Sabarmati, the Godavari, the Krishna and the Cauvery are deficient in water if compared with previous data.” This report is very disturbing. We need to employ more techniques to conduct awareness programme.
Mr Devi Lal (a lecturer of political sciences and a farmer) asserts that excessive withdrawal of underground water by farmers through bore wells is not only making underground water saline but also increasing the water table depth. He is using techniques to minimise the wastage of water in his farm and also guides other farmers about using the same. He makes smaller flower beds and uses narrow pipes instead of wider ones in his farm to reduce the water wastage.
Sometimes, debates with the fellow farmers become very aggressive, he admits. We need to understand the contrast: somewhere, farmers are crying for non-availability of water and in some parts, we need to have heated debates for saving water. We learn the word sustainable management but those directly concerned with the issue are unaware of the connotations of the word sustainable.
In many cities, the water supply system in the peak summer season worsens. People near the water tanks started wasting water by washing roads, vehicles and animals whenever water is supplied. In the same locality, we will find many households without a single drop of water in their tap at the same time. Electric motors will remain switched on even when water storage at home is at its fullest. Whenever this issue is raised in front of concerned officials, they remain awestruck. People’s unawareness and insensitivity is the sole reason behind this problem, officials admit.
Our modern living standards made the reverse osmosis system common at every household and during the process of purification, plenty of water is wasted and no one cares for that. Why can’t we use any utensil where we can collect the water for further household works? Likewise, our toilet system is also responsible for plenty of water wastage. Modern lavatory designers develop such toilet accessories in which water wastage can be controlled. Those accessories should be adopted as standard notions and should be marketed appropriately.
Government agencies, public relation departments of various ministries concerned with the conservation of natural resources, volunteers and various NGOs are doing their duties in this regard. In schools, various programmes like painting competitions, essay writing, and Nukkad Natak are organised to aware people in this regard. But that is not sufficient because without creating sensitivity and serious concern for our resource among people, the objective will remain unaccomplished.
If our neighbour’s house is on fire, our house can catch fire too. Our ignorance can burn us as well. Water is essential for life and we have the responsibility to utilise it wisely. People need to learn that their actions do affect other people. So be careful about what you say and what you do, because it is not always just about you. This is my appeal to every reader.