Friday, February 09, 2007

The precious liquid

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.


Anonymous said...

Also addition to the list would be the apartment complexes boasting swimming pools and water bodies. Habitated by all the educated people :-)


me ^^ said...

great post shruthi!

and on the topic of public awareness, id like to urge all you guys (who haven't done so already) to watch Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth". if you can rent it, that's great (and if you can watch it on big screen, all the better). but you can also watch it for free from it's shocking, to say the least. what's more shocking is that we _can_ make a difference yet most of us choose not to. ignorance REALLY isn't bliss.

Anonymous said...

To stress the seriousness, I have tried to tell a few `water wasters' that if we waste water like this, our grandchildren will be left with no water even to drink. they seriously say with a smile on their face, `we will not be alive by that time'! If this an excuse for wasting water, or is this is a solution for the water problem? How can one be so selfish?

If this is the reaction of so called educated people, what can you expected from the uneducated lot? It is indeed very difficult to bring awareness among peoplel

And Shruthi, adopting drip irrigation is not at all expensive.

AMODINI said...

I so get you. Even here, I am pretty careful with water. My aunt who visited from India thought that pretty funny, and she lives in a water-scarce area. There is no concept of the bigger picture - dwindling earth's resources etc. The attitude is - waste if you can, and conserve if you must.

I think that until water becomes expensive like gas/petrol, noone's really bothered.

Unknown said...

Hehe! :D Will not comment on the cauvery water dispute here but good that you came up with water awareness post!

Regarding creating awareness, people wont implement it until n unless it comes to their mind! Everyone is selfish n thinks only abt him/her.

I would like to point one thing that its the educated who waste water and not the un-educated! If you go to rural areas, they wont waste water! Even if it seems that they are wasting water for the first look, if you carefully observe, the water they waste will flow towards their plantation where the plants n trees absorb the water! It doesn't get wasted!

Its only in the city and the urban areas where you waste water like anything! You just turn on the tap n try doing things like Shaving, brushing while the water goes to drainage!

Regarding drip irrigation, it doesnt suit all needs! Might be for crops like coffee tea but not all! There are some crops (Ex : paddy) which want the whole field filled with water or something like that (Remembering my social texts in school) which is impossible with drip irrigation! You've gotta spend water more in such cases!

Hope that people try saving water atleast by looking at yo post!

Supremus said...

Instead of wasting multitudes of crores behind tribunals, the govt should be setting up water purification plants all accross the coast lines and transfer that water accross to the needy. Afterall, we can plan a inter-national oil line, why not inter-state water line?


anoop said...

Last year when I was in UK, there was an announcement from the government that there is going to be a water shortage that year, as a result there was a ban on the usage of water hose pipes. A ban on water hose pipes to tackle water scarcity! yes it may sound weird, but what actually it meant was: water should not be used anywhere in the country using hose pipes, which basically meant the following things - no watering the lawns(garden), no washing of cars usig hose pipes and many other things which needs a hose pipe. The ban was complete and final. The thing to appreciate here is the commitment shown by the people in implementing the rule which ofcourse was for the bettermet of them.
As you say, how to make the people of this country aware about such things, what do they lack that makes them appear a bit slack when it comes to matters of improvement, preservation, commitment. Taking into account an individual - man to man (european and indian) - there is not much difference. But still there is something lacking - that fighting spirit, that inherent drive to make tomorrow a better day.... sigh.

Anonymous said...

It is very true whatever you have said and some times it is done by all. If we realise and correct it is enough. everybody thinking what if I save happens it is not correct.
hani hani goodire halla
tene tene goodire balla

It is very unfortunate most of these things be it water wastage or breaking traffic rules or creating chaos and traffic jams in junctions and railwaycrossings it is educated who do it. If an illieterate does if you call and explain may be he will stop even though he has not understood but it is not so with so called educated.
a very nice and descriptive write up and again I must say right at appropriate time.
people will not uderstand the importance of water as you pay a very small price for it which goes; unnoticed and when the days will come when you have to busy waters by liters then may goodsenses will prevail

Viky said...

The community is formed by individuals - unless it occurs to the individual that s/he needs to change, nothing will ever happen. It is largely intrinsic - you and me may do it all the time, and just hope that it makes a difference, but unless a substantially large amount of people start doing it, it won't bear fruit. And it will take a long time for us to reach a situation where ALL people of the society feel the pinch equally.

In every strata of society, the oppressed are usually the lowest of the class - the poorest farmers commit suicide, the poorest businessman shuts shop, the lowest of us middleclass choose a different stream because our parents can't pay the "donation" - its a survival of the richest now.

And so, nobody bothers. For every bucket you save, your neighbour wastes two, where is the farmer now? And forgive me for sounding indifferent, which farmer are you talking about? I have seen rich farmers in Mandya arranging for their "own" water. 24 hours, 7 days a week. "No problem for water, there is enough to swim in it", he says. I will not talk about the poor farmer, its just his luck that he is poor.

Take a middle class guy who has crawled all his life to get to the exit level of the middle-class he belongs to. Now he partly has a life he always dreamed of. He strives to get a better standard of living for his children - is he really concerned about the poor farmer? Ideally he should be, given the poverty from where he started, but he doesn't. He tends to think - "WTF? If my kids are quiet in the bathroom playing in the water, let them. Big Deal. Its better than them crying in the hall. I'm paying the bill, so what's the effing problem?"

Same is the case with every problem that affects our country. Bribery? Those who have the money, bribe and cross the line. Those who don't pay, suffer. You take a hard stand and say I won't pay. Great, he says, and goes to have a cup of tea. And your job is not done for a full five years. I know someone here will have a success story to match this - I myself got my DL done without bribe, with receipts for all payments made, and in time. But I know too, that I am one among the exceptions.
Illiteracy? The R and MC of us will somehow manage to put our kids in one school or the other. The poor will send their kids to govt schools. The teachers aren't paid well (thanks to our tea-strainer system of fund distribution which sees to it that only water trickles down) so the kids find it a better option to use their time volunteering for manual labour and earning some money for sweetmeat and candy. Do we think once that the donation we pay to get our wards through is making the entire system dirty. No!!! Would I take the risk of NOT giving a donation and sending my kid to a "lower" school and jeopardising his future? No !!! Will it help even if I took such a risk? At the most, you will find mention in a small column, while your near and dear ones will secretly curse your rigidity. Did it help the system? No, in your fight for the right, you are left bruised, helpless, angry...

The rich and the middle class "aspiring-to-be-rich" will never stoop just because there is a poor guy out there who will benefit by them. Even if they do, their number and the amount of resources they save is too insignificant to benefit the actual needy person.

And it is a sad thing that when we go down to the grassroot level to help someone directly, for every needy person, there are two fake ones standing to get a free lunch. What happened during the tsunami relief operations? Beggars from all over came there, acted as homeless survivors, and disappeared into the thin air.

When you start speaking of the malaise that affects our society, you will run short of space. But in spite of all its shortcomings, our country manages to produce people like him, and them, who steadfastly pursue their dreams, who set up examples for others to follow, who are the torch-bearers of a silent revolution sweeping through, and THAT is why I am proud of my country.

Anonymous said...

ALong the same lines,we as a society definitely awareness as to how much paper we waste! Especially since all of us work for cocmpanies which provide "free" printouts,i see many people use paper recklessly,without thinking of how many trees they could be killing!!
More so in the US where paper kitchen towels are a must in all households,people use them with gay abandon!
These days when everyone is so "busy",recycling seems to be an unwanted task!!

Anonymous said...

I have seen this mentality amongst some of my friends, whenever i try to say something on the lines of conserving water or resources, i met with a look thats makes me wonder if I spoke something wrong. Either they are too disappointed and tell nothing more can be done. But that has not deterred me from speaking out my mind, and I follow such small things seriously. And sometimes happy that I am able to convince some of my friends on these issues.

Manav said...

Well, on the positive front, this issue is not going entirely unnoticed. Companies like ITC have started initiatives on this front, ranging from "rainwater harvesting" to "becoming carbon positive" (

Chitra said...

Oh you said it...!! When I see so much of water being wasted via the washing machine..kuch kuch hota hai!

Anonymous said...

"S showed me how I could wash the same vessel with quarter the amount of water that I use."

and could you please show your blog readers too? :-)

- s.b.

Emma said...

This isn't just about water - a lot of other stuff too that gets on my nerves - the way a person driving a Merc would quietly roll down his/her window and throw waste onto the road or worse still spit out, the way we just ignore traffic rules. I don't think it has to do with education or awareness - I am sure all these people are educated and aware, but we are simply apathetic; we simply don't care!

Anonymous said...

Nice post on the precious liquid. What we lack is awareness among ourselves.

People think in a way that - if it doesn't help me directly, then why should I do that. If its good for the society, then let the society do that - thats the mentality we have today :(

Shruthi said...

Vivek, you are right - but you cannot really call that a waste - after all a swimming pool can be considered a luxurious necessity....

Me, thanks! I haven't watched it - will do so. Yes, we really can make a difference... its just that we can't be bothered, that's all.

Bru, exactly! I can't believe how they can be so shortsighted!! Will find out more about drip irrigation - thanks!

Amodini, exactly. "Waste if you can, and conserve if you must" - unless they feel the pinch, they will not understand. And by that time, it will be too late!

Sandesh, maybe the people who do live in rural areas do not waste water - yes, I have also seen how the water flows into the fields. But I am talking about the uneducated who live in urban areas - like house help, or gardener, etc. They might conserve in their house if they live in a water scarce area, but when they come to help out in a house where there is no water scarcity, then they go ahead and waste water.
And yes, I am quite aware that drip irrigation doesn't work everywhere. My point is that it can be used in some situations - so why not use it there?

Suyog, I think the idea of linking all the rivers of the country does exist - might be in the planning "pipeline"... don't know how feasible it is, though!

Anoop, yes I had heard about that ban on hosepipe usage. That was a very smart move. And you are so right - though there is not much difference between the individuals, where have we gone wrong when it comes to being a part of society??

Praneshachar, hmm.... probably the educated have this air of "I know everything, you don't need to tell me anything"...

Shruthi said...

Viky, anger, pain, and finally, even pride.... thanks for the comment - thought provoking.

V, right! And on those lines, even electricity, petrol - I can go on and on!

Anu, ditto. What keeps me going is that there are definitely some people who have changed after my lectures!

Manav, true. Hope we have more such initiatives - we need them. Thanks for the link.

Chitra, hmmm... again, a necessary evil..??

S.b., what do I do? Arrange a dishwashing session at my house for all my readers?? :) Seriously, its nothing.. just reduce the water flow to a quarter of what you usually use, and try washing the same vessel, and see if it is possible or not.

Emma, exactly. Makes you give up on "education", doesn't it? Wonder if there is anything that can be done to change the mentality of people?

Prashanth, right. The blame game, or passing the buck - call it what you will.

Anonymous said...

@Shruthi ;-) Remembered this article when I read this story today on rain water harvesting: good news india: There is a Ganga in the sky and it doesn't cost much to link to it.

E F Schumacher overhearing an expert declare "Technology is the answer", famously asked, "What was the question?".

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