I still remember the day when I asked my grandpa if there happened a WW3 after the 2nd one. While he was quenching my curiosity, my grandma came panting upstairs and said, “I reckon there will be one soon” indicating that she heard our conversation and hurried into the backyard to switch on the water motor. It was the big day of the week. It was the ‘water day’ and people in the community were gearing up with their buckets and containers to store water for a week.
People in Vidarbha have embraced this weekly routine. I’ve lived in Vidarbha for 10 years before shifting to Mumbai and I’m completely aware of how water scarcity can affect people’s lifestyles.
Grandma’s words have always stayed with me because War On Water is a huge deal to even imagine. Those words came back to me when I was reading the reports of Vidarbha’s neighbour Marathwada having hit the worst drought ever.
Marathwada is facing serious droughts of all time. Farmers are worst hit. Water-scarcity, almost ‘zero’ cultivation and unemployment have become a stubborn danger. There is only 2% water left in Marathwada dams until today. People are dying while fetching water. Cattle is dying their natural death and farmers are chalking their own by committing suicides. 2015 itself witnessed around 3228 farmer suicides in Maharashtra. 3228 is definitely not a small number. Every life counts. 2016 has barely begun and have already witnessed 338 suicides in the Marathwada region itself.
Economy is badly hit as the crop production has fallen. The bread-winners are simply jobless as their jobs are water dependent and water scarcity have left them no choice but to herd themselves in cattle camps. Cattle camps claim no order in place. It’s still techno-spastic in 21st century. The relief and monitoring staff manually counts the cattle heads twice a day in the scorching sun, travelling from camp to camp. It’s grueling but the staff has to still put up with it despite charges of manual error by the seat-warming administration. It’s dubious if the relief is really reaching the needy. When it’s not, whom the needy should approach is a big question in itself.
Parched lands are compelling people to migrate to cities for food and employment. But where will they go in cities? Isn’t it tough to start from scratch with barely any capital? And what about the cattle? How will they migrate? Even power-shedding is an issue, let alone no electricity at all. Don’t you think these dire circumstances might make people take the wrong route? The riches have already started playing by bribing the tanker officials for hoarding and supplying water not meant for them. Things are certainly bitter.
So what/who is to blame except the administration? Maybe the choice of crops the farmers produce in this region. There should be something called as ‘smart cultivation’. Sugarcane is a water-thirsty crop and must be avoided in such areas and the cultivation must instead shift to pulses. Also, why the farmer produces a particular crop despite knowing its cons is a whole different subject of discussion. Simple explanation is that they find it safe for their business. Despite multiple warnings, sugar mills were set up in the region and this negligence has evidently proven expensive.
I can go on and on about the whats, hows and whys about this issue. The problem is grave and not just confined to Maharashtra. States across the country are facing a similar menace at various intensities. Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are among the few states in India suffering due to consecutive bad monsoons.
So what do you think is our responsibility towards water conservation? Because that’s what a common man can still control. Unemployment and agriculture are left to the government to look after because we can’t draft and implement the required policies for the same.
Easy measures :
Avoid using showers although it is the most sought-after bathroom accessory during summers.
Close running taps. Please don’t ask ‘Why me?’
Order mineral water at restaurants. Because only when you pay for water will you understand its importance.
Rain water harvesting. The coolest water conservation technique. Some states even give subsidy of around 6% for implementing the same.
Repair leaking taps. It’s YOUR responsibility to bring it to the attention of care takers.
There is this one-man ngo called ‘Drop Dead Foundation’ run by a 80 year old Aabid Surti, a well-known artist with several achievements to his name, wherein he repairs the leaky taps in Mumbai households for free. His generous initiative has helped save millions of tonnes of water every year. Aabid has had a tough childhood and it’s his roots that remind him that every drop counts.
Most important : Stop cursing Monsoons. Please. Curse the concerned management for your first-world problems.
Water is a necessity. Pure drinking water is the most basic one of all. We need to do the needful and leave a better planet for the future generations. Nobody’s too old or too young to understand the need to conserve. Baby steps. People are reaching out for this issue and it’s OUR responsibility to acknowledge the need and join hands for the same.
I would like to close with bits of Leonardo DiCaprio’s speech at Oscars 2016 on receiving one for ‘The Revnant’ – “Climate change is real. It’s happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species. We need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating…let us not take this planet for granted…”