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Friday, October 15, 2010

When Water Spells Life And Death (Blog Action Day 2010)

"Reports would indicate that unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence including war."

Imagine a day or two without a drop of water in your faucet. Dishes pile up in the kitchen sink. Cooking may require patience, eating out may be costly. A decent bath postponed for another day.  The day ends with patience thinning . This becomes a common scenario when water vessels are bottoms up and supply from the municipality is cut for a day or two. Dreadful - if you sum up the experience in brief. This is more or less the situation that prevails in every household in Jeddah where water problem  perennially exists. Nevertheless, this is nothing compared to the situation that prevails in most countries in Africa where water problem causes  death of thousands each week.

If we lack appreciation of the fact that in this part of the world water flows naturally in the comforts of our homes, then think again. In Africa people walk miles for hours to fetch drinking water that is not even guaranteed to be safe. In some cases people fight over who gets to grab the rope first down the well. Children barely able to carry heavy cisterns are forced to walk miles sometimes spilling half the content along the way. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water. In some cases, the water that they gather can be contaminated. Children too are being deprived of school in favor of this daily ordeal of carrying heavy cisterns that put a strain on their otherwise frail bodies.

Inhabitants of developed countries may not be aware that water problem in most poor countries is dire. Even till date the scenario is grim. Reports would indicate that unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence including war. Unsafe drinking water is a potential breeding ground for bacteria and can incubate various diseases such as E. Coli, Salmonella, Cholera and Hepatitis. So it does not ring a surprise that unclean drinking water and its lack thereof causes 42,000 deaths each week in Continental Africa. The figures may raise few eyebrows but that is a fact. And we cannot refute the fact because the collective inhabitants of this planet do not care as much. True?

Research also shows that more people have access to a  cell phone than to a toilet. This is a shocking reality of unbelievable proportion. In this world of extremes where technology dictates how people live their lives, an astonishing 2.5 billion people still do not have access to proper toilets. This means that sewage spills into streams and rivers can contaminate drinking water and cause diseases. This way of life is not strange to communities that do not have access to clean water, thus the problem exacerbates and seeing no resolution.

While we don't see any concrete and viable large-scale solution at our disposal, the world is slowly coming to deep awareness that water problem poses a great threat to humanity. Earlier this year, the UN declared that access to clean and safe water is a basic human right. Thus every inhabitant of this planet is likewise duty-bound to obey the very tenet that governs human existence - to preserve our nature that provides our very basic needs.

Study shows that in America, an average person uses 159 gallons of water every day - more than 15 times the average person in a developing world. From showering to washing their hands, to watering lawns and washing their cars, Americans use a lot of water. And to put things in perspective, their average shower will use about 10 gallons of water, enough for a decent bath,  cooking, doing laundry and to quench their thirst. A couple of years back, saw an alarming drought that ravaged the Souteastern states in the US prompting authorities to ban people from watering their lawns even putting violators in jail. Now the question goes, when nature decides that man should be cut down to size for his neglect of her, where does he really go to hide?

The present is dire: the future looks grim that it must be entirely unmanageable, says the forecast of environmentalists. But what can the person of the present do about it? Yes, if we only have power to reverse that trend. It is chilling to the bone knowing that the picture emerging from today's data and tomorrow's forecasts is so complex and appalling that it leaves us feeling powerless and helpless. One cannot change the fact that this world cannot increase its supply of fresh water but it is not running out. It is just that there are more of us to share it, and we are steadily increasing.

Economists would further warn that the world's growing water shortage will even  put substantial pressure on the supply of the basics of life - food, water and power, which will have significant social consequences in both rich and poor countries given the current pattern of its use and abuse. Two global trends they say have added to the pressure on water and both are likely to accelerate in the coming decades. First is demography. Over the past 50 years, as the world’s population rose from 3 billion to 6.5 billion, water use roughly trebled. On current estimates, the population is likely to rise by a further 2 billion by 2025 and by 3 billion by 2050. And demand for water will rise accordingly.

The other long-term trend affecting water is climate change. There is growing evidence that global warming is speeding up the hydrologic cycle—that is, the rate at which water evaporates and falls again as rain or snow. This higher rate seems to make wet regions more sodden, and arid ones drier. It brings longer droughts between more intense periods of rain. This sounds more or less comprehensible to us how climate change brings tremendous effect on water - as to what extent though, nobody can really say. Analysts would further warn that some regions of the world will become drier, others wetter. Deserts will spread as in the case of Spain and China. Rivers also shrink but floods become more frequent. It is also beyond argument that climate change is slowly effecting some drastic changes in the formation of the earth. We just don't ignore its effects, because the signs and evidences are tremendous.

There is only one solid fact though that nobody can refute. Man's ignorance hastens any impending disaster because he refuses to stare past beyond his today's existence. Large metropolises have been predicted to submerge in water in future while desertification of massive arable lands has become a shocking phenomenon. It is because this earth has lost its state of balance, a fact that some skeptics still refuse to admit. Whether one does not have faith on the doomsayers or otherwise, the fact that we habitually neglect our responsibilities as stewards of this planet, spells trouble in the future and it's only a matter of time before it comes back to haunt us. And when mother nature is on a rampage, nobody would dare say, "I am innocent".


Nortehaon said...

The first picture is a very, very sad one :( When will we ever learn?

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