Celebrating World Water Day, a day before Holi

This year’s theme for World Water Day, ‘Leaving No One Behind’ focuses on making safe water available to all people without any discrimination.  

  1. H. Auden, one of the most renowned poets of the 20th century once said, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water”. Even a young child is not oblivious of the necessity of water. It’s the elixir of life for literally everything which is alive on this planet, ranging from the simplest unicellular microorganisms to the most evolved and advanced form of life sitting on top of the tree of intellect- us humans. However, the despondent irony is that in spite of being the most intellectual and evolved life form on this planet, we are over-exploiting our water resources instead of managing them in a sustainable way.

Realising the severity of the problem of water pollution and scarcity, the United Nations Organisation has recognised 22nd March as the World Water Day. Every year, UN-Water selects a theme for that particular year to be followed. For World Water Day 2019, UN-Water has selected the theme ‘Leaving No One Behind’. This theme is in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goal 6 of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)  which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. In 2010, the UN recognised the human right to water, which gives every human, without any form of discrimination, the right to have access to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.

However, this right is far from being implemented. Globally, about 2.1 billion people live without safe water at home. Safe water is an abbreviation for ‘safely managed drinking water service’, which refers to water that is accessible on the premises, available when needed and free from contamination. According to UN-Water, over 700 children under 5 years of age die every single day from diarrhoea due to consumption of unsafe water and poor sanitation. But what’s the problem? It’s not depletion of water, it’s human overexploitation of water resources. Water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, but 97% of it is saline. Only 2.5-2.75% exists as freshwater, out of which 1.75-2% is frozen in the form of glaciers. And we are either polluting or wasting whatever’s left.  

Ironically, just one day before the World Water Day was Holi, the festival of colours, or more appropriately, the festival of water wastage. According to the Institute of Environmental Entrepreneurship, Research, Education and Development (IEREED), a small city wastes about 2 crore litres of water on every Holi. The amount of water wasted on Holi every year by the entire Republic of India is off the charts. We need to understand that the environment and natural resources are much more important than our religious beliefs and sentiments, for these are personal and don’t affect anyone but oneself, but the natural resources are for everyone and their exploitation and scarcity affects not just the entire human race, but the entire biodiversity on this planet.

We need to start managing water properly at the individual level, if we don’t want water to become more expensive than gold in the future. Of course, government and international water management programmes are imperative, but it ultimately comes down to us. Even small things, such as closing the water tap while brushing your teeth, not taking long showers, not throwing garbage in canals, rivers, lakes and other water resources, and not bathing and dumping different things in the river Ganga under the hypocritical pretence of religion can make a huge difference. This day onwards, stop taking water for granted. We need it for our very survival, and treating it like we have been is going to cost us all heavily in the future.  

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