Post Mortem

Why we should value water?

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 3/23/2021 2:01:19 PM IST

 Water holds a very special place whether in the ancient or the modern world, whether it’s in mythology or in various religion view, whether in real world or in a fantasy fairy tale, whether in the search for a habitable planet or in a chemical reaction.

Water is not just a combination of hydrogen and oxygen alone. It means many things to living beings, society and even religion. For instance, water in Christianity—Baptism—symbolizes rebirth and purity; in Hinduism, water is believed to hold purifying and cleansing powers; in Islam, it symbolizes wisdom; in Buddhism, it embodies the calmness and serenity of water, and in animism, it is believed to be the source that connects others.

Almost all of the sector in the world relies on water—economy, energy, urbanization, industry, space exploration, agriculture, health, tourism, and environment. It isalso an integral part of the society that binds the elite to the poorest, because the purpose of water remains constant i.e., drinking, cooking, and washing.But, the amount of freshwater that is available is declining at an alarming rate because of climate emergency—increasing frequency and intensity of storms, floods and droughts—and pollution.

Water more than ever is highly polluted in this decade chiefly because of exponential population growth which triggers the demand and supply chain to the higher end. Water pollution can be considered as the most prevalent pollution of all the other types of pollution as it’s the final resting place for all the pollution whether it is from the air or soil which get into the water bodies by rain.Both groundwater as well as surface water are polluted by humankind to the greater percentage.Groundwater gets polluted from pollutants like pesticides and fertilizers, and waste that are leached from landfills and septic systems along with natural sources—iron and other minerals— enters the water table making it unfit for use.While surface water is polluted with millions of chemicals and effluents from industries, from municipal sewage and waste, from hospital waste, from agricultural runoffs, stormwater runoff, and careless and illegal disposal of waste into water bodies.This contamination of water affects the natural water cycle, and is chiefly associated with various high end health risk both for human, animals and the environment.

In addition, in the era of climate change, the most affected resource is water, as water touches all sectors of the society (eg., food, health, energy,and environment).Climate change leads to increasing frequency and magnitude of extreme events (heatwaves, unpredicted precipitation, hurricanes, thunderstorms and storm surge events). For example, even before the mid-summer, states like Odisha, Delhi, Assam are breaking all records by experiencing the heat due to extreme temperature rise, or the disaster triggered by an avalanche in Uttarakhand due to glacier burst. With the mercury rising, the scarcity of fresh and clean water is likely to decline. It is estimated that, by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.

Though water cover 71% of the earth’s surface, climate change along with water pollution has alreadyled to water scarcity in many parts of the world, where people struggle to get access to clean and safe water for daily use. And with the pandemic, the need for clean and safe water have drastically increased.According toSustainable Development Goals (SDG)report, around 2.2 billion people lacked safely managed water and 3 billion people still lack basic handwashing facilities at home. While according to WHO report, “785 million people lack even a basic drinking-water service, including 144 million people who are dependent on surface water, and some 829 000 people are estimated to die each year from diarrhoea as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation, and hand hygiene.”

It is because bothpollution and extreme events will adversely affect the water quality as a result of higher water temperatures, and reduced dissolved oxygen which in turn will reduce the self-purifying capacity of freshwater bodies. In addition, risk related to pollution and pathogenic contamination caused by floods and concentrated pollution during drought will also elevate. Thus, in order to prevent and conserve water, in such situation, smart management of water needs to be implemented: to prevent water from evaporating during hot days from water bodies either by groundwater recharge and storage, to utilize rain water by sustainable methods like water harvesting, to find means to recycle wastewater (which is actually 99% water and 1% waste), and to find means to storage or divert floodwater to water scare areas. 

But it is not all, we need to be conscious that we don’t pollute the water by careless disposal which many often do—dumping of garbage in river bodies, excessive use of pesticides and fertilizer, unregulated seepage of oil spills from garages and vehicle leaks into groundwater, careless disposal of pharmaceutical, cosmetics, plastics, decay products, and leakage of landfills and septic tanks into water bodies.It’s a time where we have to really think beyond the principle of the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). We have to think about sustainability and circular economy along with the 3Rs. We have to be more possessive and obsessive about water than earlier generations as we are the one who are in the make-or-break era.

Even the SDG (sustainable development goals) 6 also known as the “Water Goal” aims at this area i.e., to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. But this is not possible with active participation from all sectors of the world—from governance at both central and local level and to the greater degree with an active individual participation. 

Still!If we think that we  are not having a water issue, have a look around—some of the household even locks their water tank, some fight over water while fetching, some buy water beyond their pay grade, some walks kilometers to get water, some doesn’t have proper filtration system in their place to have clean and safe water for use, some have already started using pumps with larger capacity probably due to decrease in groundwater level,  and most rivers and sewagesbeing dumpedwith all kinds of pollutants.

“Water is a vital and the most precious resource, if it’s not polluted or exploited in your place, it’s time to take proper measure to prevent it from getting polluted or exploited. If its polluted, or exploited, its high time to join our hands to tackle this alarming situation by various preventive measures such as —creating awareness at local level, incorporating the risk associated to water pollution, formulating and drafting policies for waste disposal and water use, reducing the wastage of water wherever possible, reusing water, recycling water by groundwater recharging and rain water harvesting, recusing contaminated water and species in it caused by human actions, reconnecting to nature to get the true meaning of water, and refusing to pollute the water bodies in the first place.”

Dr. Parimal C. Bhomick, Department of Chemistry, Immanuel College, 

Dimapur, Nagaland

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