Water is life. The most essential thing after air is water. In my previous post in this series on environmental issues, I discussed about Air. In this article I intend to draw the reader’s attention to water.
There are man made water bodies like the ponds and canals. And there are natural water bodies like rivers, lakes, seas or oceans. Then water bodies can also be classified as static or flowing.
I spent some part of my childhood in my native village. I am talking of the nineteen seventies. We did not have the privilege of piped water supply. There are three ponds towards the east side of the village, one river by the west, and a number of open wells.
I fondly remember spending many a pleasant and playful mornings and evenings beside one such pond which was earmarked for bathing. For this pond, the village had set strict rules as to what activities can be done and what activities were prohibited. I don’t remember having any skin related problem because of taking bath regularly in this pond. In fact our bathing rituals here sometimes lasted hours, as we swam from one end to the other, jumped from the big banyan tree on one of its sides, and did somersault from the top of the customary central pole which is a common feature in most of the village bathing ponds in Odisha.
We did not have the luxury of water purifier plants. Nor did we use tons of chlorine to keep the water unpolluted. The pond had its own purifying natural mechanism that consisted of a variety of aquatic animals and plants that had made the pond their home. Sometimes when the lilies were in full bloom what a sight it was.
Thankfully, when I visited my village recently I was happy to find that no damage has been done to this eco system. But I was appalled at what has happened to the water bodies of the small town where I spent my college years. Of course, in those days also these water bodies were filthy. But now I find that some exist only in maps, some do not exist even in maps, some have been converted to entertainment hubs with boating and fancy lighting and resigned to fate, some continue their filthy and neglected existence.
The story of most of the urban water bodies could be similar. Even the water bodies associated with places of pilgrimage and temples are in filthy condition at many places.
Such man made static water bodies are the legacies of thousands of years. These are the gifts of our ancestors. I don’t think other than exclusive swimming pools or small fishing ponds we have created any such water bodies for public use. Rather, we have done away with many including the natural ones.
The vanishing of water bodies and the filthiness apparent on the existing ones are not restricted to static water bodies. In the last four or five decades so much damage has been done either due to climate change or our neglect that many small rivers in India either exist only in maps or are active only during the monsoon. When I was in Coimbatore I found numerous such rivers, or let us say ex-rivers. And those that have survived are in sorry state of affairs.
Rivers are usually signs of beauty. But when they pass through Indian cities these become symbols of filth and ugliness. In spite of regulations and numerous cleanliness drives, rivers in Indian plains continue to be filthy and polluted.
The story of most of the water bodies in underdeveloped and developing countries must be similar to that of India. On a global scale we have not spared the seas and the oceans. Unbridled commercial exploitation of fish and other marine resources have created imbalance in the marine eco system. Added to that we have incidents like oil spill. Harmful chemicals used in farming, plastic and other non bio degradable materials used in day to day life some how finally end in the sea. Of course let us not discount the effect of global warming on all types of water bodies and the ecosystems dependent on it.
If I state the causes for the sorry state of our water bodied and the possible solutions, I will bore you with lines that you have already listened so many times. I will spare myself from being a dealer in clichés. By now every conscious educated person on earth knows what to do and what not to do.
One of my recurring highlights of this series on environment has been the conflict of economic development vs the environment. The conflict has followed us like a shadow since we stopped being cave dwellers. While at individual level we can take pledge not to use plastic and not to dump filth etc., commercial exploitation part can only be dealt with by making clear cut legislation and enforcing it.
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