Editorial Articles

Volume-52, 24-30 March, 2018


Fast Deepening Water Crisis  Can We Afford to Ignore It?

S.P. Sharma

There goes a very famous anecdote. Once upon a time, there lived a king who possessed a very vast empire. The king was very much fond of hunting. On a certain day, the king, with his cavalcade and a huge retinue of servants and courtiers, set out for preying into a dense forest. Hunting kept the king busy and the day went on passing until the sun rose to a very scorching noon. Having felt very thirsty, the king started heading back hurriedly in search of some natural streams of drinking water. But all efforts of the king to find water for quenching his thirst went in vain.            

As was the king in frenzy, he found some clouds of smoke billowing from a hut at some distant place. The eyes of the king shone with renewed hope. He rushed to the hut and found a hermit sitting immersed in deep meditation. The king mustered his courage and made a humble prayer to the hermit, “O great sage, please forgive me to intervene into your deep meditation. I am the king of the empire you live in but now am very miserable. I am very much thirsty. I am dying of thirst. Please give me some water so that I can quench my thirst.”

“I need to struggle hard every day to fill up the pitcher with water. It is only for my use. I cannot share even a single drop of it with anyone, however the great person he or she may be. Go and search for it somewhere else”, the hermit refused the request of the king without any compunction.

“I cannot afford to search more for water. My energy has drained away. Please give me a little water so that I can save my life,” the king again made earnest request.

The king became very much disappointed. He made the last desperate


“O kind sage, give me some water and I can pay the price as much as you wish. I am ready even to offer you my entire empire which I have won at the huge cost of massacre of so many innocent lives and unfathomable personal sacrifices. If I die due to extreme thirst then what is the value of the empire for me?”

“So the value of your entire kingdom equals to only a few glasses of water! Shame on you! Shame on your empire and your kingship!” the hermit replied philosophically and offered him heart-content water. This event of life proved to be an eye-opener for the king and the realization of vital significance of water in the sustenance of the mankind taught him the lesson which he had never imagined of.

In fact, the aforesaid anecdote is not simply a story of a king and his search for water to satisfy his thirst. The story needs to be read between the lines and the message which becomes crystal clear is - water is the most precious asset on the earth that gives sustenance to the entire creatures on the earth planet. The story is also a reflection on the bitter truth that no amount of wealth can purchase water, the essence of existence of life.

“Water is the most critical resource issue of lifetime and our children’s lifetime. The health of our water is the principal measure of how we live on the land”, so said Luna Bergere Leopold, the famous US geomoropholigst. There is no denying the fact that water makes most important of all the ingredients which help sustain the lives of the Homo sapiens as well as flora and fauna on the earth planet. It is also the root of the existence of all the moral, ethical, aesthetical and spiritual values and the engine of the sustainability of the world culture and civilization.

But unfortunately with the soaring global population, which has increased more than double over the period of past seven decades, the availability of water, especially for the drinking purposes, to the common masses has turned out to be one of the biggest crises of the modern-age-Homo-sapiens of the 21st century. Moreover, water accessibility to global population has also been plummeting to the newer low with each passing year. And nothing can be worse and more critical when we take into account the level of underground water which is going down and down every year.

How much critical and disappointing the scenario of water crisis can be for the human beings is so dangerously reflected when media very recently published a report with terrible and panicking images of the people of Sao Paulo, the most industrialized Brazilian city, once called as the city of drizzle, with not more than the population of 13 million. The residents of the city had to face such a severe drought very recently that they had begun digging and drilling their houses’ basements, floors and even vehicles’ parking places to reach out to the underground water.

The readers of this horrible report and threatening images might have not felt the sense of déjà vu of the ordeal and the nightmare the Brazilian city inhabitants had to undergo but the lessons are very clear for the understanding of which one need not be a rocket scientist - water is life, no water means no trace of life, the world is sitting on the cusp of waging the ugliest and the severest ever civil war over the issue of usurping the lion’s share of water in the imminent years to come - the very elixir of the survival of the mankind on the earth, the very essence of the survival of the flora and fauna on the earth. Also the writing is very clear on the wall for the existence of lives on the earth.

Water covers more than two-thirds, that is approximately 70 percent of the earth planet areas. It does never mean that we have so much sufficient water as much we need for the smooth running of life. It is because of the fact that only 3 percent of the entire global water is fresh drinking water. This is not the beginning of the end of the saga of distress and dilemma. The two-thirds of the total of 3 per cent of fresh water get stuck or trapped away in glaciers and so we are left with meagre 1 per cent of fresh water for the daily basic human activities to the various applications in all the three sectors of the economy, producing goods and services.

If mere one percent of nearly 70 percent water on the earth planet rests for the use and falls within the accessibility of the mankind and other creatures on the earth, we can easily guess the ferocity of the water crisis across the nations in the world. It is very much bewildering that as many as 1.2 billion people, a little over as that of India’s population, are deprived of access to water. And a total of 3 billion people, more than the population of India and China put together, are cursed to suffer from the acute water shortage for at least one month in a year. The sad story of the sufferings of the people due to water crisis does not cease here only.

The critical condition of both the availability and accessibility of water also tells on the plight of sanitation in the world. Lack of sufficient water makes the people vulnerable to a string of water-borne diseases like those of cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid fever and several others. The medical science says that more than 90 percent of the diseases which the mankind is likely to suffer from have their roots to contaminated and unsafe drinking water. It also deserves a mention here that as many as two million people, mostly children, die every year from diarrhoea, a contaminated-water-borne-disease.

Drought now has become more usual and most common natural global phenomenon. Floods are inundating most uncommon cities and towns across the world. Abrupt climatic changes have aggravated the situation eve more. Half of the total wetland areas of the world has been destroyed over the past seven decade which does not augur well for the earth considering the fact that these wetlands, which make most potential nurseries of the development of human civilization and growth of diverse nature of flora and fauna, work as a shield for the people against storms, droughts, floods and other natural calamities. The destruction of wetlands is also the matter of worries because they substantially nourish the production of rice, the staple diet of almost half of the population of the world.

Water crisis is only one and the problems and dilemma are galore, the wider repercussions of which are so obviously visible on the various segments of the economy, ecology and environment. At this critical juncture of matter of life and death brought about by global water crisis, we need to make a serious soul-searching and ask a very though tprovoking question: Where do we need to find faults which have led us to the vortex of water crisis? And, most importantly, we need to ask ourselves another equally significant question: How and when will we wake up to take initiatives to correct the critical multi-headed-hydra-like water crisis situations which have overstretched to the extent of jeopardizing the lives of not only the present generation but also the lives of the generations to come?

In the Zambian capital of Lusaka, there is a very famous zoo. This zoo has a cage which does not have any animal but a very weird notice pasted on it which reads as, “The world’s most dangerous animal”. When the visitors enter into the cage they find a man-size mirror in which they see their reflections. The message is very clear: For all the natural catastrophes and the whole gamut of crises which the world population is suffering from, it is only man and only the man and his undying lusts that are to be held responsible and guilty.

So like other crises, water crisis too is man-made. We have ignored the life-sustaining crucial role of water on the earth. Hence the solution also lies in the sincere endeavours made by the mankind only. The most important and urgent step is to bring about holistic paradigm changes in our mindset and insight. We first need to visualize the dangers which are so perniciously looming large over our very existence due to water scarcity. We need to visualize the horrifying world scenario when we would be left with no water resource on the earth and we would be rendered cursed to die altogether.

The Slovakian proverb says that pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine. Not only this, it is also the bread winner of entire creatures on the earth. So there is no gainsaying the fact that we urgently need to conserve water.

Conservation of water starts from the check on the wastage of water. They say that saving a natural resource is tantamount to producing it. The agriculture sector which uses 70 percent of total accessible water on the earth is the biggest stake for us. No doubt, agriculture, the single most source of granaries, is root of the sustenance of the human beings but at the same time we need to be cautious to know that almost 60 percent of the total water volume used in farming is wasted through leakages. This puts heavy pressure on the underground water. The irrigation system requires to be supplied with latest scientific technologies and leak-proof infrastructural facilities.The agriculture scientists also must make a string of intensive researches into the possibilities of finding the genetically improved seeds which may give boost to the dry farming system so that precious and scarce water can be saved. Industries also need to work upon checking the wastage of water. Water used in the various industrial applications such as coolant or cleaning agent must be rationally used via installation of latest know-how, improved modus-operandi and an array of sophisticated technologies.

Effluents and industrial wastes and sewages require to be recycled so that they are not dumped into the rivers and lakes. Rain water harvesting may proved to be a significant conservation technique which can provide great relief to the people facing the acute water shortages.

A blanket ban on the deforestation and felling of the trees by the private contractors in the name of development of furniture industries must be exercised without any further delay by the government. There is an urgent need of accelerating the afforestation at a massive scale so that erratic and irregular nature of rainfall can be fast improved and water availability can be ensured sufficiently for WASH (Water for drinking, sanitation and hygiene) to the entire 7.5 billion population of the world.

Common masses too need to be woken up from the deep slumber to make them realize the importance of even a single drop of water. Leaving the water taps running for hours without any purpose is nothing less than a crime against the humanity on the earth. Until the people realize the adverse consequences of the waste of water of this sort, crisis would not likely to go sufferings are set to aggravate day by day.

Vying with the developed economies for the faster rate of growth of Gross Domestic Product sounds pretty heartening and no one can be skeptical of it. But with this lust of reaching out to the pinnacle of progress and prosperity, what we do not take pain to ponder over is the question which every conscientious citizen must ask himself - Will the earth sustain the burden of undying desires and ever-accumulating needs of the Homo sapiens? Next bigger question is no way less important –For how long will the earth sustain all these pulls and pressures wrought by man? Last yet the biggest question is - Are we ready to face the consequences when the earth gives in and finally surrenders to our whims and fancies?

Keeping in mind the vital and life-saving role of water in the sustenance of the mankind and the earth itself we must ask the aforesaid questions very seriously and try sincerely to answer and find their speedy solutions only today - otherwise we would not live for tomorrow to answer and find solution for them.

The Author is Principal, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Email-spsharma.rishu@gmail.com