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That ultimate liquid asset called water

140105 - Open page - Conserving water

140105 - Open page - Conserving water

Water is the very elixir of life, a precious commodity gifted by nature. Its worth is known only when it is scarce. Thus, it is essential to conserve water. Keeping in mind the Supreme Court’s ruling that “natural resources meant for public use cannot be converted to private ownership,” a few States, including Chhattisgarh and Kerala, which had planned to sell river waters on a commercial basis to industries had to abandon the proposal.

Similarly, leasing out rivers and reservoirs for fishing or other commercial activity too had to be put on hold. Privatisation of water supply is a sensitive issue, as also the price charged for water consumed.

About 90 per cent of the water available goes for agricultural and industrial use, thus leaving about 10 per cent for human consumption. Changes in agricultural practices could help conserve water. For example, the use of sprinkler and drip irrigation can reduce water consumption by over 30 per cent. Using drought-resistant seeds will ease the water burden. Instead of growing water-intensive crops like sugarcane, farmers are switching to alternative agricultural and horticultural products which demand less water.

Industries are seeing the advantage of changing processes to make them less water-intensive. A recycling plant at the Bangalore railway station reuses water after proper cleaning, thus effecting savings. Recycled water is being offered in the Bangalore industrial area at a lower rate to encourage more industries to opt for recycled water to save costs and conserve water. Moreover, some of them have started recycling to reduce water consumption.

A city like Singapore, which imports water, recycles water and encourages individuals and industry to use such water for non-potable purposes. In the foreseeable future, such recycled water could be used even for drinking, when people’s mindset changes.

Some cities have laid down mandatory rules to harvest groundwater. However, it is no longer ‘free’. A permit is required to drill a bore-well. Moreover, what’s needed is to levy a charge for extracting groundwater, which is community property. Rainwater harvesting is catching on, and is mandatory in cities and towns. Urban water supply is plagued by leaks and contamination. Maintaining pipes and taps properly could go a long way in conserving water.

Drought-prone areas have realised the advantage of rainwater harvesting. This is an ancient practice followed by ancient civilisations near the deserts where the rainfall was meagre and tended to run off wastefully. Mini bunds, increasing storage capacity of village tanks and planting trees are all aimed at harvesting rain when it occurs. A few villages in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have demonstrated how scanty rainfall could be utilised better through run-off prevention and charging underground water springs.

Water Poverty Index (WPI) is a measure that combines indices of water availability and access with indices of people’s capacity to pay. There may be abundance of water but not paying capacity for water use. In general, water poverty is related to income poverty, the WPI is inseparable from Human Development Index (HDI) where we rank abysmally low compared even to developing countries like Thailand.

The poor have no reason to ‘feel good’ given such a hopeless situation where there is a daily, relentless struggle to access clean water at an affordable price.

( The writer’s email is dbnvimi@gmail.com )


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Printable version | May 29, 2022 5:01:29 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/that-ultimate-liquid-asset-called-water/article5539241.ece