While the panic about water that builds up during hot summer seems to have subsided in our wiser cousins, my Facebook wall has just popped a video by great Sadhguru telling me that we are heading for a water crisis.
For some strange reason, whenever the water Gurus of this planet do their maths, it starts with a premise that 97 % of water on this blue-green planet being salty, it is good for fish only. So, left with 3 % and most of it frozen in polar icecaps, they conclude that we will rather have world war III and self-destruct than solve the problem of water using a technology that we already have.
As they presume that the cost of desalination will ensure that we rather die than do it, I would not like to apply my understating of economics of demand-supply to their wisdom either.
So, instead of worrying about a distant future that Sadhguru is taking care of as part of his business model, I rather look at an immediate problem that is looming across the planet, especially in rural areas of Gujarat where people have to walk for miles to fetch water for their basic needs.
To deal with this problem, we need to understand the dynamics of water management in India.
In simple terms, India is divided into three types of water-zones. We have areas where there is natural abundance of water, we have areas with abundance of people making it viable to bring water to them, and we have areas with not enough people and not enough water.
Where low density of population meets low presence of water, it is natural for water management to fail on economic viability front in a poor nation like India.
While we are emotionally moved by images of kids fighting for tanker water, and local politicians scream about failure of government in providing basic necessities of life to their doorsteps as promised in our constitution, there is a reality that we need to embrace.
The problem of water scarcity in most such regions is not a new addition to the planet. Humanity has colonised these arid zones by evolving a special lifestyle, and that has a key learning for us today.
Water has been the prime mover of not just humanity, but most life forms. As we live on an ever-changing planet with seasons, water availability on any point on this planet is not assured over time. As water supply shifts, animals including humans need to shift accordingly. While people have lived migrating after water for eons, they are suddenly finding it to be a government failure when water isn’t available at their doorsteps.
With arrival of new construction materials that allow us to make long-lasting homes; the new age habitats, even if they are built in arid zones, are aimed for permanency, so people’s ability to seasonal or water-linked relocate is lost.
In the regions where we had almost nomadic lifestyle linked with availability of water just a hundred years back, we now have permanent villages crying for water.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t solve the problem of rural India, but there is also a strange possibility worth exploring, and that is to do cost-benefit analysis of taking water to remote locations versus shifting such populations to where water is.
It looks like a drastic solution as it amounts to displacing people from their homes, but it may make their life easier in long run.
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