Monday, December 17, 2007

Ready for a tough lesson?

Water turns poison in Punjab villages-Chandigarh-Cities-The Times of India

This makes for sad reading. Really sad reading. The health of the people of several villages is on the line here because of industrial waste dumped into the drain which has now leaked into the ground water supply. I have heard of similar cases in northern Karnataka also.

We haven't done an analysis like this in Bangalore. If we do, we will most likely find similar heavy metal concentrations in the ground water here also. New water purifiers that remove the heavy metal content from water have come out. But these are expensive and who knows what by-products they generate?

The callousness towards our own lives shown by scant regard for the environment never ceases to amaze me. People, you are digging the graves of your own grand children by greedily grabbing whatever resource is left!

In Bangalore, I am appalled at the way ground water gets carted away in multiple tankers. I know of a case where 50 tankfuls of water (probably 50-100,000 litres) are pumped out every day. The residents of that locality were clueless in the beginning. Now, their borewells are dry! The borewell just became deeper! This also increases the chances of heavy metals entering drinking water.

Whenever I mentioned rain water harvesting, I used to be met with laughs and derisive smiles from the know-alls. I was an idealist in their eyes. And my own family is split on the extent of doing it. Some feel that there is no need to be alarmed at these media items. Though RWH is mandated in Bangalore, I don't see many people doing it out of need. They try to just be compliant. Of course, even that helps!

So, should I be an optimist or pessimist in these matters?

The media have always been alarmist on these matters. They like to scream "The end is nigh" at the top of their voices every time they print something. And they have done so ever since man learnt how to communicate. So is it any different this time? When they say the Himalayan glaciers will disappear in 50 years, are they being serious? Scientists themselves are mixed on this.

However, having seen the quality of air deteriorate in the past ten years and all the tanks and borewells actually go dry, we can all safely say that the environment has not been paid the same importance as it is entitled to.

I sometimes feel (in spite of being a human myself) that Nature should teach all of us such a hard lesson that will never be forgotten for thousands of years. I dread the lesson, but as we say in Kannada "daDDanige doNNe peTTu" (A stick-blow for the fool), so let us all not be fools. Let us learn from our mistakes and thus hopefully avoid Nature's harsh lesson.

To end on a lighter note (paraphrasing a cliched email signature) - this blog is coming to you via recycled electrons.

1 comment:

Aram said...

"Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink," so sang Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798.

Though more than two-thrds of the earth is covered by water only 2.5% of this is fresh water.

"Future wars will be fought over water, not oil or land."

Right from time immemorial, whole tribes have migrated from one place to another because of water and settled down on the banks of rivers. The marwadis in the last two centuries, the Saraswaths who thousands of years ago lived on the banks of river Saraswathi, now extinct, the Bijapuris in the last 2 decades, etc.

However, the ever-ingenious man constantly tries to overcome the challenges through innovation like RWH, desalinating sea water, etc.

Enlightened companies like Infosys have set up their own waste water recycling plants for non-drinking uses.

Though our ancestral house is just a 1-2 KMs from the Arabian sea, the water level in our well goes down in the summer. We did think of installing rain water harvesting system but were told by people who had tried it in our village that it did nothing to raise the water table in the ground. Maybe we need to do some more research.

-- Aram