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Mumbaiites, don’t save water; save the forests and rivers instead

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Mumbaiites, don’t save water; save the forests and rivers instead, says Stalin D. of Vanashakti, on of the few people whom I know who know what they are talking about and who also do what is needed. Please read and pass on.

This is from the Hindustan Times 14th April 2016

Now that the IPL has managed to weather the symbolic challenge to it using the water crisis, it’s time for a reality check. Nothing makes my blood curdle more than hearing the slogan ‘save water’. In a land of rivers, with 400 perennial rivers, we talk of saving water. Compare it with a slogan from OPEC “Save Oil”. India gets its name from the Indus river. Abundant water was the only reason why India was invaded and why civilisations thrived. Today, when we talk of the empty slogan save water, it is a reflection of how we lap up every slogan from the west without questioning if it is applicable to our land.

Development is industrialisation and concretisation. Both need water. The question is whether to industrialise at the cost of drinking water or to provide drinking water for life to survive? The answer is not hard to decide. Not just industry, but excessive farming is also the reason. Farmers continue to endure decades of abuse and neglect thanks to the greed of politicians. The race between politicians to be at a par or above the other has led to this drought. In rain shadow regions, and in areas with less rainfall, farmers grow sugarcane to toe the line laid by politicians, who ensure it is the only crop that has a stable sale price. All other crops have been relegated to second place. An annual export of 2.43 million tonnes of sugar worth more than $1.1 billion has forced the sacrifice of drinking water. Farmers of other crops have been forced to expand farmlands into nearby forests to produce more so that they can survive the pit bottom prices that befall them when the crop is ready. Take a look at Google Earth Satellite imagery and one can see the ever-expanding kilometres of farm land. We are a surplus producer of food. We farm excessively so that the farmer may survive.

Government policies never focussed on protecting water sources, wetlands and water bodies. A case in point is the Ulhas River. This perennial river is the last resource of fresh water for the MMR.

Thanks to the development undertaken by corporations from Kalyan to Karjat, the river is dying. Lakhs of humans from Kalyan, Ambernath and Thane were supplied water from Shahad, which was contaminated with sewage disposal undertaken by the Ulhas Nagar Municipal Corporation and townships all the way up to the source in Karjat. The polluters were fined heavily and action was initiated by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Sadly, the polluters got a stay order against the NGT order from the Bombay high court by citing lack of funds, among other reasons, to avoid payment of fines to restore the river.

Delayed decisions of the judiciary will continue to haunt mankind and prolong the present misery. Removal of the River Regulation Zone (RRZ) policy was another nail in the coffin for our rivers. It allowed industries to be set up anywhere near the river instead of the 500m-2km distance prescribed earlier. The ease of doing business is now equal to the ease of polluting the rivers and in turn defines growth.

Among the last remaining regions with a reasonably good amount of pure water is Konkan in Maharashtra.

The government has decided to protect this region in a unique way — by allowing rubber plantations to replace primary forests and by proposing a chemical zone in the Konkan.

Don’t save water, save your forests and rivers. No forests, no water —plain and simple.

For IPL its business as usual. It is time to go back to our daily routine of ignorance and indifference. Close the tap while brushing and pat yourself on the back.

Now you the reader has a choice. Ignore this message, or do what you know has to be done. It is not going to be easy either way, and you know it.

All the best. God save India.


1 Comment

  1. Deepak Tralshawala says:

    Mr Stalin D has made some very very pertinent points. The greed of the politicians and business is matched by the indifference of the public and the judiciary. Whenever I watch foreign programmes on TV the one scene I cherish is swans and ducks in the river and people boating. Our rivers are cesspools. Given the fact that Greed will not change, one has to think of unconventional solutions. One suggestion: why not punch small diametre holes on the periphery of maidans to augment ground water?

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