Home ExpertSpeak Water - An environmental treasure, Bijal Panchmatia; The Moneta Design

Water – An environmental treasure, Bijal Panchmatia; The Moneta Design

‘With the extreme weather events past few years hurricanes, floods, droughts and wildfires it is indeed time to more urgently think about water resilience. We need to treat Water as fundamentally more precious resource’, says Bijal Panchmatia, The Moneta Design.

World Water Day 2020 was just a month ago with the theme “Safe Hands” due to the rapidly advancing COVID-19, which has brought the entire globe (except Antarctica) to a standstill. What is Safe Hands? Clean hands, washed with soap and water. Is it only for the current scenario? ie: COVID-19? On a more serious note, is it advocated towards the urban population or extends to the rural too? If latter, is our rural India educated to cope with COVID-19? While that is one point to ponder (though that is not what I have been asked to write here), I wish to bring to our reader’s notice the next vital point – which is the subject of the day – Pure Water.

Major changes noted to the hydrologic cycle due to the climate change with increased evaporation from higher temperatures, and more frequent and intense droughts by which water is circulated throughout the earth and the atmosphere have naturally impact the water supply. The Water crisis represents a global issue: everyone has a role to play, no matter ethnicity, social status or sex. According to UNICEF and WHO, globally 1 in 3 people do not have access to safe drinking water.

Much of the world’s water today is polluted. It is difficult to find sources of water from rivers, ponds, lakes, streams and even wells and springs which are not polluted or which do not contain traces of toxic industrial chemicals to some degree. The 2030 Water Resources Group projected that by 2030 the world would face a 40 per cent “gap” between water supply and demand under business as usual practices. As per the NITI Aayog estimation, at present 60 crore people in India face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. Global waste, climate action, air pollution, scarcity of water are few keywords that politicians, businessmen, multinational companies use to evade the problem. Today, approximately 4 billion people live in water-scarce and stressed regions, with nearly 1 billion people lacking access to safe drinking water and almost 1 million deaths per year from water-borne diseases.

Water perhaps is the single most characteristic substance required for life and health; without it, all life, from plants to humans to animals would cease to exist! Pure water is fundamentally more precious. Our ancestors keenly understood the importance of sustaining the availability of water. During their time, traditional knowledge of practices combined with the concepts of harmony with nature and sustainable lifestyles like

Kuhls (A Surface water channels found in the mountainous regions of India. The channels carry glacial waters from the rivers & streams into the fields);

Kunds (Traditionally, these well pits are covered in disinfectant lime & ash is a saucer shaped catchment area curated to harvest rainwater for drinking);

The Pat System or Katta (A cost effective & simple method used widely in rural areas. Made by binding mud & loose stones available locally, built across small streams & rivers, this stone bund slows the flow of water & stores a large amount of water depending upon its height. The collected water gradually seeps into the ground & increases the water level of nearby wells. They also minimize the flow of fresh water into the sea);

Step Wells or Bawdi/Jhalara (Constructed typically in rectangular shape these step wells are built in ancient times by the royals to ensure easy & regular supply of water for ceremonies & community use) had helped sustain societies through periods of irregular availability of water.

But things aren’t the same today. We struggle for clean/safe water. Our lakes and ponds are practically dry and many dried up purposely to let space for multi-story buildings to harness. The cries of our farmers tell us about less/no water in irrigation. Major conflicts between India & Pakistan over river Indus & river Sutlej, between India & China over river Brahmaputra, between Canada & USA over the great lakes, between Egypt, Sudan & Ethiopia over the river Nile are few examples of Water Scarcity leading to conflicts between Countries.

Our population growth is beginning to outpace our ability to simply supply more water. Our cities are the most vulnerable and they are also leading the global response to water risks by fostering innovation and collaboration with diverse stakeholders. What we now need are innovative strategies in public policy and technologies to address our water challenges. According to our Union Minister of State for Jal Shakti & Social Justice and Empowerment, Shri Rattan Lal Kataria, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti has prepared a draft Memorandum with proposed structure and activities of National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency for consideration of the Committee on Establishment Expenditure. The main objective of the National Water Policy is to take cognizance of the existing situation in water sector, to propose a framework for creation of a system of laws and institutions and for a plan of action with a unified national perspective in planning, management and use of water resources. By planning systems for greater modularity and fewer dependencies, cities can react better to unforeseen trends and events. Steps are required to be taken to reduce the use of water that can be achieved through a combination of water conservation measures, controls on accessibility, price structuring, constraints on abstraction, and legal tools. Further, there is a need to educate people about the significance of these measures.

Talking about and applying some of the emerging technologies, as well as revisiting some of the existing technologies that might help us plan better and adapt better in the long term, I advocate, Reduce-Recycle-Reuse strategy.  Two utmost important factors are Water Conserving & Water Re-use or Water Recycling to be adapted at the community level. Singapore is a leading example for its Integrated water management and expertise in water technologies; where every drop of water is recycled for reuse. Such an approach not only reduces pressure on other water sources, but also offers a sustainable solution for water resources management.

We too need to change our old paradigm with a successful new one.

Few applicable techniques for Water Conserving which every one of us can do are as under:

  • The smart use of our water resources through water-saving technologies and simple steps we can all take around the house Using appliances with certain efficiency standards is mandatory, as is the installation of Water Sense-certified, low-flow fixtures, to reduce indoor water use.
  • Installation of permanent water meters that measure the total potable water use for the premise.
  • Irrigation of outdoor spaces can be reduced through the selection of native or adapted plants for landscaping, alternative water sources for irrigation or irrigation efficiency measures.
  • Rain gardens, vegetated roofs, permeable paving and water collection features, such as cisterns, can be employed to contain the water from regional or local rain events.
  • One of the opportunities for water reuse at the building and district scale can go a long way in solving our water challenges. We should make better use of our rainwater, we should reduce the amount of water we use at the building level, and then we should share a public resource with many buildings to treat this water and make it available for reuse.
  • Treated water at a building or district scale are generally fit for toilet flushing, irrigation, cooling tower make-up and washing laundry.

Water is a necessary resource, an economic asset and an environmental treasure. Water being vital natural resource of life, saving water & reducing wastage of water shall become mandatory responsibility for all of us towards our present & our future.

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