Water Woes And Your Role

We were watching the talk show “Neeya Naana” on Vijay TV and today’s topic was on water shortage in Chennai and overall in Tamil Nadu. As always, the debate was slowly being veered towards government bashing and the fact that “they” didn’t/don’t do enough and that all people of Chennai are water warriors. Someone even went so far to say that Chennai has the culture of saving water as they have always seen water shortage. I disagree !

Tamil Nadu is in the grip of “free-scarcity-entitled-mindset”….. First, everything must be given free, thanks to both the corrupt dravidian political parties – ADMK and DMK, who have given TVs, Laptops, Sarees, Mixies and several other things free. The only thing you need to do is to breathe and vote for them. Now a couple of generations later, this has become an entitlement. No need to work hard, you can fill your house with things if you just agree to vote for one party or the other.

Second, this scarcity mindset that says take what you get today because it ain’t coming back tomorrow. I have felt it every time I have been in Chennai – there is this sense of “not-having-enough” always. This is the land of the mighty Cholas and Pandavas who lived well, had a naval fleet long before any other kingdom, expanded their Kingdoms to all sides of the globe, the land with one of most the ancient languages, an amazing culture, stunning temples and intelligent people. Where have we lost our way ? Its the scarcity mentality that’s being used to keep us down.

Anyway, we are applying the same “free-scarcity-entitled-mindset” to our water problems as well.

Here are some simple solutions, not just for Tamil Nadu but for all of India –

  1. Make the plastic ban stringent… no ifs and buts. We were in the Tambaram – Urappakkam area last week and every open space has plastic bags strewn. The same plastic bags will go and clog every sewer, drain and the Earth so no water flows.
  2. There is an old waterways map of Chennai. Bring that up and ensure all the houses or roads that are in the way of water channels are elevated, removed or relocated. There is no way to block natural water channels and still expect to store water or not have floods.
  3. During the 2015 floods we lost two year’s worth of water requirement to the sea because we didn’t have adequate reservoirs. This was and is CRIMINAL because nothing has been done to change the situation, still.
  4. The craze for RO water …. this is across the country. Reverse Osmosis makes the water acidic and more importantly wastes as much water as it purifies. The central government and the newly formed “Jal Shakti” ministry/abhiyan has to ban RO for drinking water. Also the plastic bottled water must go right now. Its terribly sad to see every hotel/restaurant/govt office/private office/homes having “bottled” water. IMHO Our water problems started when we started using bottled water. I distinctly remember when we first started using bottled water in 1992, two years after Krishnan and I got married. There was acute water shortage in Chennai and a company called “Apollo” started selling 5 and 10 litre cans of drinking water. And since then it has been bottled “RO” drinking water ! We stopped buying the cans and switched to the RO system at home. Realised that the RO water is acidic only a few years back but we are yet to totally switch to non-RO water filters. Am sure a study might have been done or can be done to see the damage RO has done to the environment and how it has led to acute water shortage. All those who were debating today on the show never spoke of the RO system and the wastage of water because of it in cities.
  5. Every individual has to take responsibility for using water judiciously – take bath in as little water as possible and just once a day, do not pour water and clean your “vasapadi” (entrance of the house) … ahhhh, am cringing as I remember how women splash water in Hyderabad and Chennai on their doorstep every morning to “clean” it. They look at me like am a fool if I say something to them. Am happy for them to sprinkle water and put those amazing rangolis but please dont splash water ! Your doorsteps and patios can be mopped clean, just don’t pour buckets of water. Do not “wash” your cars… you just need a sponge dipped in water to wipe your car clean everyday.
  6. Government has to make rainwater harvesting a part of every condominium complex and every house/office/mall structure being built. The building licenses/permits must be withheld if there is no rainwater harvesting.
  7. Sewage Treatment Plants and water recycling programs have to be initiated across the country. There is also the wrong belief that each small piece of land has to manage its water table … the water table runs across the Earth. And don’t forget, Mumbai’s water requirements are fulfilled by the nearby villages who then face drought and farmers commit suicide and some film stars try and pay off their debts, but never stop using their water !! How convenient. Sorry to burst their “good” karma bubble – paying off the farmers’ debts won’t bring good karma, because those debts came about because of you. The water used for bathing, washing vessels etc must be re-used after filtering to water house plants, especially in large condo complexes and even in individual houses.
  8. Please have a ceiling on a city’s population – a tiny city like Bangalore is more populated than Chennai. The resources are just that much… and they cant be stretched indefinitely.
  9. Do what our forefathers would do before every rainy season – clean the wells, small water bodies and de-silt rivers etc so that they recharge during the rains. The rivers are dying because we choke them with effluents and plastic waste. Some youngsters have done amazing work in reviving old rivers like the Tamirabarani in Tirunelveli and that has to be done with all the rivers across the country. Am not getting into the sand mafia and the alarming rate of sand removal from river beds for construction – hopefully the government will regulate this.
  10. In a desert moisture traps are used as survival kits… isn’t there a way to make industrial size moisture traps or water cones that convert salty, brackish water into distilled water using solar energy ? The water cone solution should work especially for the long coastline that India has. 

I hope that the “Jal Shakti” ministry works on these ideas and the people of Tamil Nadu wake up and smell some degree coffee. Help yourself and get out of this free-scarcity-entitled mindset. Apply our collective smarts to outwit nature’s vagaries and not to support stupid corrupt politicians just for the sake of short term gains.

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