The Urban Drought Fighter's Cheat Sheet
With the state of Maharashtra facing one of its worst droughts, the question on the mind of every city dweller watching the news seems to be “What can I do to change this?”. Or rather, “What can I do without actually having to go to some remote village?”.
Lucky for us, the problem of water scarcity starts not in any village, but right here in our urban homes. A city has a very large ecological footprint, which means that the area needed to extract enough resources and assimilate enough waste for denizens to live is several times the area of the city.
Another often underestimated fact is that a city is an epicenter of consumer demand and life style trends; apart from being a place where the media takes people seriously.
These two facts result in a unique significance being granted to the everyday city dweller. We are all opinion leaders and our every action and choice is perpetuated far and wide in this democratically dense concrete jungle.
Yet, apart from being asked to install water saving faucets, avoiding the shower and car-washing with a bucket, there are pitifully few things that the city dweller knows or does to save water.
The majority of our personal water consumption is not what we take from the tap but is embedded in the things we buy – especially processed food. A quick study shows some obvious culprits. Refined sugar, meat, all plastics, paper, clothes and fabrics – all use tons of water for their manufacture. This water – unlike the water for domestic supply – comes from groundwater sources.
Here are some of the things to remember, if we are to truly make a dent in the struggle to maintain equitable water for all:
Sugarcane consumes as much water as the total storage capacity of all dams in Maharashtra.
Reducing urban demand for sugar is therefore a powerful way to ease the water crisis in the state.
Sugar substitutes contain dangerous chemicals like Aspartame. Instead, try organic jaggery or raw honey.
Petrol, diesel, foam cups, plastic cutlery, straws and all other petroleum products require water to refine and manufacture.
Rooftop rainwater harvesting should be done with exceptional care taken to filter the water before putting it into the ground. Remember, groundwater once contaminated cannot be cleaned!
Reusing bath/laundry water for gardening is a win-win as it encourages you to use natural soaps, and grow your own food!
These measures make it clear that what is good for the planet automatically benefits human health.
A significant, tangible change can be affected if we have a consensus based on a sound understanding of the root causes and connections between our lifestyle and its impact.
We have a loving duty towards the farmers and the earth, on whom we depend upon for our food. A simple curb on our cravings will go a long way in ensuring health, happiness and livelihoods for generations to come.