To be honest, 2018 could have been a better year for water. Spotlights fell frequently on worsening water situations and their unprepared victims. This is particularly unnerving as water scarcity is hardly ever a 'surprise'. The signs show up months before incident and yet are largely greeted with shock. Our current volume of discussions aren't enough because even those who see disasters looming are unable to excite action.
What we can learn from Cape Town is that a major city, despite unexpected draughts and restrictions (since 2016), could 'indefinitely' postpone a 'Day Zero' event within months. We'd be amiss to not mention the losses incurred and the severity of restrictions that required such a feat. The price of inverting this situation must be a cold splash to other major cities in the world.
Is Bangalore next?
The city anchors faith in the nearest possible rivers while continuing to scorch its groundwater. Its slow rate of infrastructure tells us that the current urban setup is flawed. Boldly Unsustainable. Distribution and contamination challenges alone are mighty enough to threaten supply without primary sources drying up. We saw this come alive in Chennai when the Private Tankers went on strike. That experience showed us an important truth: We are beyond restrictions. Countries that develop with such volatility cannot handle the domino effect of restrictions. Especially when its likely to unsettle a hulking population.
A mass of inconvenienced tourists at Shimla is what it took for us to see the plight up North. The criminal mix of Climate Change, Footfalls and Mismanagement that caused the crisis had an existing answer in IoT solutions; a topic that continues to avoid those who need to know about it.
Our learning moments are close to over.
Moving forward with such crises, we can no longer aim to just 'get the tap running again'. We're past that point. Solving this would involve checking root causes, learning from our failing systems and upgrade to better ones. Wastewater management too needs to become a focus point. NITI Aayog says India is facing its worst water crisis in history, with about 70% of its water contaminated. The deaths due to Jaundice and Cholera add urgency to a fundamental change. How did we manage to mess water up so bad that it takes lives?
The Government's efforts at trying to preserve groundwater was a welcome sight but there is too long a way to go. 'Closing the tap on 2018' has to mean that we are ready for a fix. Which means that at the individual level, we know what needs to be done. Attempts at 'zero-waste' days, conservation efforts and keeping the spotlight on our progress must become commonplace.
We still have time. Although this may be the last of it