“Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water. ”This renowned quote by Albert Szent, a Hungarian biochemist, highlights the significance of water in all aspects of our lives. Water is a precious blessing to us by God. It is an essential element of life, the driving force of all nature. The earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago, but for several millions of years, it remained a barren rock. It was only after water made its appearance that single-celled life emerged.
Water is so important for life that when astrobiologists search for life in space, they first look for the presence of water on other planets. It is intriguing to see how a simple combination of two elements can form something so critically important to life.
A handful of ancient civilisations have developed and flourished near water sources and have perished when these water bodies dried up. Agriculture has been the mainstay of our existence and has helped Homo Sapiens develop into the preeminent species on the planet. Even today, all over the world and especially in India, farmers patiently wait for rains every year to water their crops. Despite various recent technological advancements, the monsoons play a large role in the agricultural output.
A thought-provoking fact is that about 75% of the human brain is water and every organ system in the human body depends on it to function properly. Therefore, It is not surprising that water is almost everywhere. It covers nearly 70% of the earth. Despite this apparent abundance, the earth is facing a severe shortage of freshwater. This is because more than 99% of water is unfit for consumption. The planet is overwhelmed with water, yet living beings are dying of thirst. This is not a recent realisation. Our ancestors knew how the water cycle worked and designed their lives around it.
The water harvesting systems, the water storage sites and the irrigation systems were used by our ancestors to make their lives easier and to conserve water. These civilisations were limited in their reach and their efforts were focussed on conserving water resources for maybe a few thousand people. Today, we have to design conservation systems which cater to over seven billion humans and other flora and fauna.
Our water conservation strategies usually look at saving the water received from the water cycle (called the rainwater harvesting) and minimising wastage of water. These require efforts on a global scale with nations and governments working together. Globally, water conservation has been linked to climate change initiatives. It has been well recognised that climate changes are causing flooding and drought in various regions, putting pressure on poor people and their livelihoods. The UN World Water Development Report 2020 warns that 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and 4.2 billion do not have access to safe sanitation. It calls for prioritising water in climate change agreements and using funds allocated for these initiatives for saving water. To put a focus on these efforts, we celebrate World Water Day every year on March 22nd . This day is an opportunity to learn more about water conservation and spread awareness to take action. In India, the ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan’, a water conservation campaign launched by the Government of India, has been formed to save water and has concentrated on aspects such as rainwater harvesting and renovation of water bodies. But governments alone cannot be responsible, local communities and individuals have to put in their efforts as well. At a community level, water conservation takes place in two parts – creating awareness about the issue and putting up rules and guidelines for the community to follow.
Local groups bring people together with a common objective to develop ways in which water can be saved. Schools also play an extremely important role in educating impressionable minds. Ultimately, the biggest impact will come when each and every one of us makes saving water our own responsibility. Small changes in lifestyle like taking shorter showers, closing the taps while brushing, installing water-saving showerheads and checking faucets and pipes for leaks can save enormous amounts of water in the long term. It is up to us children to save and conserve the ‘Blue Planet’ that our adults are leaving to us.
It has been said that the world has seen wars fought to capture land, gold and oil. Today water is a commodity which is more precious than all of these. Let us all come together and make saving water our most important priority.
~ Amanya Mathur
~Arya Vidya Mandir Bandra West