Water: the element of survival
The blue planet. A moniker Earth has gained due to the vast quantities of water on its surface. Water is the number one factor that distinguishes it from other planets of the Solar system and the sole reason for the presence of life. It is estimated that over 71% of our world is covered by water and 29% land. So technically, there is no reason to be worried about water scarcity, right?
No. Although two-thirds of our planet is covered by water, only 3-4% of it is freshwater. The saline water present in oceans and seas is unfit for both human consumption and the survival of other plants and animals. Most of the fresh water on Earth is found in polar ice caps and below the groundwater surface. Ever since industrialization and globalization, humans have been putting a strain on this finite resource. According to The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), “Nearly half the global population are already living in potential water-scarce areas at least one month per year, and this could increase to some 4.8–5.7 billion in 2050. About 73% of the affected people live in Asia (69% by 2050)”
Amid the growing tension regarding water shortages in poorer countries, it seems that capitalism has found a way to monetize off the precious resource. The first half of December 2020 market the first-ever trade of water as a commodity in the Wall Street future Market. Farmers, hedge funds, and municipalities alike can now bet on future water availability in California, the biggest U.S. agriculture market and the world’s fifth-largest economy. With the current world starting to see significant global warming effects, it’s not surprising that water has joined the list of commodities traded on the exchange market. It not only indicates the dwindling supply but also raises questions on whether commodifying survival is ethical. There is already an observable discrepancy between water use by the wealthier classes and the poor, the swimming pools and lush gardens compared to lining up with a bucket. But the consequences might be even more frightening if you consider countries like the global south like India. As an agro-based economy, the water scarcity in India might have dire consequences on all citizens. Water is vital for survival. It is used not only for drinking but also for cleaning, agriculture, and entertainment.
Water as a commodity in India
Water forms the core of development for agriculture-based countries like India. It is the primary source of livelihood for about 58% of India’s population. According to India Brand Equity Foundation, “The Indian food industry is poised for huge growth, increasing its contribution to world food trade every year due to its immense potential for value addition, particularly within the food processing industry. Indian food and grocery market is the world’s sixth-largest, with retail contributing 70% of the sales. The Indian food processing industry accounts for 32% of the country’s total food market, one of the largest industries in India, and is ranked fifth in terms of production, consumption, export and expected growth.” Infact, A NITI Aayog report suggests that water scarcity in India will lead to a 6 per cent loss in the country’s GDP by 2030.
When we ignore the problem of increasing water scarcity, we are also limiting the future growth and development of our country. Not only are our freshwater resources being rapidly depleted and polluted, more than 50% of Indian citizens still do not have access to potable drinking water. Water is also critical for the farming of two major grains in India, wheat, and rice. The shortage of water is thus directly linked to the shortage of food supplies. The 2018 Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) noted that water demand will exceed the available supply by 2030. That’s just 10 years we have in our hands.
Solutions to prevent water scarcity
So, is there any way to prevent such a catastrophe in the future? What can we do to prevent foreseeable water scarcity? Here are a few steps we can step for saving water –
- Hold local industries and corporations responsible for excessive water usage.
- Educate children and adults regarding the water shortage crisis
- Put pressure on the government for quicker and stricter enforcements of water-saving policies
- Organizing community level workshops that teach how to prevent water pollution
- Turn off the faucet whenever it’s not in use
- Wash only when the laundry is full
- Keep local water bodies clean.
- Reuse wastewater
- Invest in rainwater harvesting technologies
It’s high time every individual does their part to conserve the most critical resource on earth. Or else, the future is bleak.