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How clean is your water?

Water pollution is supposed to be a fallout of an industrialised society. But it is claiming an increasing number of lives annually in India. As we keep poisoning our waters - surface and underground, it is our very survival that is increasingly on stake.

india Updated: Jun 18, 2003 18:56 IST

This is an image from a streetside in Bhopal, but such is generically true for most of urban India

Amongst the most significant of the various phenomenon that the modern age has spawned is the pollution of nature- of air, of land and certainly of water. Putting not just our present but also our future at stake, along with that of the all the other species in Earth's extremely intricate web of life.

Water has been used for humans ever since they emerged. So when did 'using' of water cross the line and become 'polluting' of water?

To get an idea of what man has done to water, take a look at the Yamuna, Delhi's lifeline. At every point of its 22 kilometre stretch in Delhi, it is black, lifeless and stagnant. You may have drawn rivers in blue while making maps in school, but to find even a trace of blueness in the Yamuna, one will have to delve into the realms of imagination.

 A common site under Indian bridges

Sadly Yamuna reflects much of what has come to be the fate of water bodies across the country. The pollution of water has happened both at the levels of sheer waste poured into it as well as in the (mis)management of water.

The commodification of water, lack of community control, overexploitation of water resources and the explosive growth of population have all contributedto this rapidly worsening situation.

The British referred to India as a 'hydraulic' society. Life in ancient India revolved around water. It got ingrained in the psyche of the people and found expression in the folklore. That explains why we revered our rivers as goddesses.

However, with the coming of the British all that changed. Sensibilities underwent a dramatic makeover and water became something owned by the state with no stakeholding by the individuals.

First Published: Jun 11, 2003 15:14 IST