A little while ago, on the night that the Cauvery tribunal gave its verdict, I went to sleep, only to be awakened at dawn by the sound of water flowing. I woke up to see that the water was overflowing from the overhead tank of a house, a few houses behind ours. They had perhaps forgotten to switch off the pump. There was no way I could contact those people, so all I could do was stand there helplessly, waiting for them to realize what is happening.
As I watched the thick column of water going to waste, I could see in my mind's eye, thousands of farmers, starving and suffering from lack of water. I also saw villagers waiting with rows of empty pots, near the lone tap of the village - waiting for a few drops of that precious liquid to gush out - waiting in vain.
I couldn't go back to sleep until the water stopped flowing.
I woke up to the news that the decision of the Cauvery Tribunal would affect Bangalore too - much of its population would have to face waterless days.
At least now, will people use water wisely? For I have seen how irresponsibly people use, or rather, misuse water.
I can understand if uneducated people waste water - but how about all those educated people around us? How is it that they do not have even a little awareness?
I have seen people turning to talk to me while washing their hands. The tap is open, water is gushing out, and they are turned towards me, explaining something.
I know people who boast that their bath takes 2 hours and 10 buckets of water. Are they so dirty, or are they that huge??
I have seen people washing their cars with water from a pipe.... wasting hundreds of litres of water .... where one bucket of water would suffice to wash one car.
Oh I have even seen Water Supply Tankers going about the roads leaking water all through the roads (like one little cousin of mine had said, "Hey, that lorry is pissing!")
It is not like I haven't tried to tell them. But people more often than not laugh or don't take me seriously. Years ago, While I was walking to school one day with a couple of friends, I saw an open tap in one of those cylindrical community water tanks - so I crossed the road to go and close the tap. I was ragged about that for years to come. I still don't understand why.
When we try to tell people to avoid water wastage, the typical questions are:
* Why? We have no water problem in this area.
* Why? Everybody wastes water anyway, what great difference will it make if I save water.
* Why? Anyway by the time there is real water scarcity, we will anyway be dead. Why take all the trouble now?
I honestly am rendered speechless at this.
And this is the response of educated people. If we try to tell the domestic help at our place not to waste water, she thinks we are stingy. If you cannot explain to educated people, how can you expect this illiterate woman to think of the big picture?
For all my awareness, I hadn't realized that when I wash vessels at the kitchen sink, I keep the tap open more than it is necessary - S showed me how I could wash the same vessel with quarter the amount of water that I use. And now I consciously do that.
This is just about saving water at home. There are many ways in which water can be used wisely for irrigation too. The first technique that comes to my mind is Drip Irrigation. Drip Irrigation is a process in which water is routed through pipes and valves to the fields, and water is released drop by drop to the plant, instead of all the water at one go. This reduces water wastage due to evaporation, and due to water run-off.
I have actually seen this at work in some farms in the Malnad area in Karnataka - and it is amazing how much less water is required compared to ordinary irrigation. I am aware that this might be a slightly expensive method of irrigation, and you might also argue that anyway the water from normal irrigation doesn't really get lost - it goes and settles as ground water or goes back to the atmosphere. True. But that particular farmer's pressing problem of water shortage is solved to a certain extent by drip irrigation, right? And if the farmer has the means and interest to implement this, then great - every drop saved matters.
What does it take to create awareness among people? Not education, for sure. Then what? Maybe they should just step up water rates - levy high prices for each litre of water. At least if people feel the pinch that way, they might come to their senses. Or will they?
Note: Let's not use this platform to debate on whether the Cauvery Tribunal Order is just or not. Thanks.