A week back a friend asked in a WhatsApp group which is the most underappreciated piece in Climate Action. I shared my thoughts on why Water has to be taken very seriously with this note:
Last week I read that Exxon Mobil, Shell and Chevron made the highest profits in their history, Exxon made 55B USD profit. In an alternate universe, I wish energy efficiency companies or Renewable Energy companies made such profits.
The point I want to make is, the planet is warming at an unprecedented pace, climate change mitigation is not catching up, and now we don’t have enough time for Climate Adaption as well. It is said that if Climate change is Shark water is its teeth. Though we live in the same cities that were built by emperor Ashoka to Akbar, since we live on a warmer planet, we don’t have the same water availability due to changes in evapotranspiration and hydrology. There is going to be both drought and flood, leading to various socio-economic implications.
Rapid Urbanization, rather mindless development, has led to exacerbating the water crisis. For example, Bangalore, the city I come from, once had thousands of lakes. The majestic bus stand, Kantirava Stadium, Koramangala, Domlur and many places were lakes, we have a small fraction of lakes today. Because of this today, we get water from river Cauvery which is at a distance of 120kms, at the cost of people in the nearby towns not getting their fair share, and also jeopardizing food security as well. We are hoping it rains in Coorg or Mandya so that we can get water in Bangalore. And we are hoping it doesn’t rain in Bangalore because it will lead to flood and overload the central waste water treatment plants. Besides, there is a plan to get water from river Sharavati and in the future from river Krishna (500 kms)too, don’t know how many more towns nearby will be deprived of water.
Since rivers are evaporating faster than ever due to hotter summers, groundwater withdrawal has become a convenient alternative. Can you guess when was Borewells first time introduced in India? It was in 1972, by UNICEF to combat the water crisis. It became a popular choice in the 90s. And today India’s groundwater withdrawals are the sum of the whole of the US and China put together, more than 25% of global groundwater withdrawals. It takes more than 1000 years to fill confined aquifers, today we are mining it like at a much higher pace than ExxonMobil, Chevron or Shell mining oil, but in an unregulated way. No wonder Niti Aayog’s report says 21 major Indian Cities are running out of groundwater. It’s important to note groundwater acts like a sponge during an earthquake, taking it away is like removing a seatbelt while driving.
I have heard people say, Desalination can solve the water crisis – well, yes, but at a cost. That’s exactly why Borewells also came to India. Desalination requires 22 times more energy (more carbon emission) than getting water from freshwater sources, and brain solutions produced in the process can significantly affect the biodiversity of the seas and can affect fisheries.
The water Crisis is a time bomb that can explode anytime – people are dying because of the unavailability of water and contamination, many industries will shut down leading to mass unemployment, large-scale migration and political instability, etc.
When I read modern history it was mostly about wars fought for land acquisition – the World War, colonisation and Spanish invasion. When my 3- year old Son reads modern history it will be about wars fought for oil – Kuwait and Iraq war, Iran War etc. When my granddaughter, hypothetically, reads Modern history, going with the current trend, it will most likely be about violence and wars fought associated with the water crisis. I believe we can avoid that history in making, by investing in Water Positive Initiatives!