Ever since I was a child while growing up in Rajasthan, water was an important commodity that’s not wasted and is surely LIMITED. I remember having water piped to our houses once ever 3rd day for few hours with irregularities of course. One of the task in the morning irrespective of the weather was to fill all the buckets, utensils with water for drinking, cooking, daily chores and for all that water is required in homes. In summers at times due to the reduced or no supply of water – tankers were ordered for and then the water tanks were filled along with all the utensils and buckets to go off few more days. Thus actually water at that point became from a basic need to something else much more . . . With changed times and projects that built dams and reservoir the problems faded for some parts of Rajasthan. However power centres pulled that water to state capital and left a lot of the beneficiary areas high and dry.
One of the initiative that got my attention few years back was on linking of rivers to effectively manage the water situation in India that would not only reduce persistent floods while feeds onto the places where there is water shortage perennially. To my surprise this proposal dates back to British colonial era in 19th century with historic data showing “National Water Grid” planned in 1970 as well. Also unique water conservation systems were prevalent in India and the communities who have practised them for decades before the debate on climate change even existed.
My inquisitiveness in the topic increased and it revealed that there is a lot that this new India can learn from the traditional water conservation system. Drawing upon centuries of experience, Indians continued to build structures to catch, hold and store monsoon rainwater for the dry seasons to come. The methods of conservation were simple and eco-friendly for the most part, they were not just highly effective for the people who rely on them but they are also good for the environment. Archaeological evidence shows that the practice of water conservation is deep rooted in the science of ancient India. These traditional techniques like Jhalara, Talab, Bawari, Kund and may similar ones though less popular today, are still in use and efficient.
With climate changes including low pressure created affecting the course of the monsoon it’s imperative to think and store water. As per one of the data – India currently stores only 30 days of rainfall, while developed nations strategically store 900 days worth of water demand in arid areas river basins and reservoirs. While India also relies excessively on groundwater and about 15 percent of India’s food is being produced using rapidly depleting groundwater. Our country’s agricultural system is so fragile as it’s completely dependant on the ground water and rainfall. A bad monsoon can wreck havoc just now by affecting the irrigation but has impact on the national economy.
Other industries which get affected due to water indirectly and impacting on the economy is tourism. Last year, as Shimla’s water supply fell to almost 1/3rd a severe water crisis was created, tourists gave the popular hill station a miss as several hotels were ordered to be shut by the state High Court. Chennai this year is facing a drought like situation and companies have asked their employees to work from home. Ladakh, another region which is dependent on the tourism sector to sustain itself have received more tourists than the local populace is also facing an acute water crisis whereas Mumbai is getting flooded due to excessive rains.
With the increased global warming and temperatures rising the water sources are drying up faster than one can imagine. I don’t know how much of India’s GDP has been impacted by its water woes but what the numbers do show is that we have been inefficient in handling our water resources. I wonder are we really taking adequate actions apart from the social media message trends and forwarding messages – asking others to save water wherein we don’t try to keep a tab on what amount of water we saved today.