The dog days of summer are truly here! After an amazing month of May which saw something like 16 thundershowers in the city, the mercury has climbed past the 44 degree mark and shows little sign of relenting.
Despite this incredible heat and the sure knowledge that we face a water shortage, I see people happily wasting water. I am lucky to be living in one of the very well served colonies that dot the NCR. People here are wealthy and educated, unlike so many of our less fortunate fellows. But, when it comes to awareness of the need to conserve water, they are, alas, less than responsible. Water is, literally, going down the tubes.
It is not unusual to see car washers diligently washing whole stables of gleaming cars and SUVs each morning, sloshing water on them with a pipe that seems to flow directly from a limitless spring of water. And, while he is soaping the glasses of these beautiful cars, the pipe lies on the ground untended, pumping out life-giving water into the drains.
Delightful parks are scattered about the colony I live in. They are beautifully landscaped and lush with the greenest of green grass. Every morning and evening, an employee of the RWA goes around "watering" the lawns. This is a very simple process. He just knocks out the wooden stoppers from the 2 ½ inch diameter pipes in the parks and lets the river flow! Literally tens of thousands of gallons of water are wasted each day in this manner. What a simple job it would be to install an inexpensive sprinkler system, with drip irrigation taking care of the many shrubs and bushes. The parks would be just as green, and scarce water better utilised.
Some enterprising chaps even water the entire road in front of their bungalows to keep the dust down and cool the environs. I have seen several houses where the security guards outside the houses sit next to a bucket with a pipe filling it with water. Once the bucket is full, the pipe is not turned off. It just continues to flow, while these people look the other way.
The experts tell us that India's population will cross the 1.3 billion mark by 2025. That's a lot of people! Other experts tell us that the next wars in West Asia will be fought over water, not oil.
We in India are not strangers to the idea. Quarrels over water rank way up there, along with disputes over land and women, as the cause for most crimes of passion. River disputes are a constant thorn in the flesh with riparian states slogging it out over who gets how much of the increasingly shrinking pie. Back in 1955, it was estimated that there were 5,277 cubic meters of renewable freshwater available per capita. By 2001 this had dropped to below 1,820 cubic meters. It is projected that by 2025, the per capita availability of water is likely to slip below the critical mark of 1,000 cubic meters.
If populations continue to migrate the way they now are, we are likely to witness an inflow of at least 500 million people into urban centres like Delhi, Ms Dikshit's carping about Bihari etc migrants notwithstanding. What impact does this have on the water situation, you ask? Simply put, planners have traditionally assessed water demand and allocation differently for rural and urban populations. While the norm for rural demand has been pegged at 40 liters per capita per day, the urban norm is 135 liters per capita per day.
The rural-urban migration will mean that each of the metros will have to search for additional water sources to meet the growing demand. Already, cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai ferry water from as far away as 200 km.
It is high time that RWAs all across the NCR enforce some discipline among residents. Curbing water usage, putting in sprinkler systems, shifting to drip irrigation, insisting on rainwater harvesting are some of the measures that may help stave off the inevitable.
As someone once famously said, "We have seen the enemy, and he is us."
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