We should learn from the earlier generations on how to tackle water shortage and nurture life around us. Some thoughts from water activist S. Vishwanath
March 22 is World Water Day, and 2013 is designated as the year of water cooperation. In this part of the world large States fight over rivers and take the dispute to the highest court of the land. Even that decision is met with discomfort and is not easily accepted. Is there hope for water and its sharing then?
Close to the neighbourhood there are a series of deep open wells. These were dug in the 1940s and even as late as the 1960s by hand with great effort. Those who dug the wells are no more but the families and their descendants continue to benefit from the endeavour of their forefathers. Grandfather starts, son completes and grandchildren enjoy the fruits of water from wells, so goes an old saying. Though the wells are private the water is not and is available for all the families around who need it for drinking and cooking. Indeed a case of inter-generational sharing, as well as current generation sharing of the precious resource called groundwater.
In the early part of the 1900s there was a great drought in the city. A betel leaf merchant by the name Yele Mallappa Chetty devoted a large part of his earnings and wealth to the construction of a tank so as to harvest rainwater and provide succour to the people for drinking water as well as for farming needs. Yele Mallappa Chetty kere is on Old Madras Road and its vast water-spread a joy to behold. Yele Mallappa was a water philanthropist, and a grateful city must remember him even now.
In the 1920s another drought struck the city. The only source of water, the Hessarghatta reservoir, ran dry. Three large tanks upstream which still had water had to be breached so that their waters could fill the Hessarghatta tank and provide drinking water to an already thirsty city.
This was done only in consultation with farmers who would lose their crops in the three tanks. The city ensured drinking water to the villages and paid cash compensation to the farmers for giving up their water, a sterling example of water cooperation indeed.
In the modern times people establish water kiosks called ‘pyaoos’. Free water is distributed to those thirsty, especially in the scorching summer months of March, April and May. This is all voluntary action and especially a facet of the Marwari community from Rajasthan. Nothing is more worthy a deed than giving water to people and animals.
Why cannot ‘pyaoos’ be established by some of the large commercial and residential buildings in the city? Water can be provided to thirsty passersby, construction workers et al. Is such efforts of goodwill and compassion beyond us? Not necessarily so.
There are many borewells with hand-pumps in the city. An auto rickshaw driver pumps water from one in Malleswaram and slakes his thirst. He then fills a bottle of water from the same hand-pump and waters a roadside sapling. He does this every day, sharing water with a tree.
On the streets a neighbour starts chatting. She places a small bowl of water in a corner, providing relief to myriad birds, insects and creatures of nature in a thirsty urban world. She thoroughly enjoys the bio-diversity she gets to see. Many do it out of a sense of selflessness. Can you?
There are acts great and small done with a spirit of community and these acts are their own reward.
This World Water Day let us renew our commitment to the spirit that is water, renew our bonds with it and the world that surrounds us, let us share with people who have little access to water and let us also share with nature so that the web of life is reinforced.
That would be water wisdom.