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Don’t let this become H2woe

Updated on: 16 March,2024 04:32 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Hemal Ashar |

As Mumbai’s five per cent water cut begins, an environment crusader on learning to respect a cheap but precious resource

Don’t let this become H2woe

People collect free drinking water from a tanker. Representation pic

Subhajit Mukherjee Summer will be no bummer if we handle the five per cent reduction in water supply or water cut until April 24, wisely and well. We have to find that fine balance between alarm and complacency. Remember that this water cut follows a 15 per cent cut that came earlier.

At the outset, it is worth highlighting that there are three Rs in conservation that are frequently touted. These are Reuse, Reduce and Recycle. There is a fourth ‘R’ that needs to be part of this lexicon: that is Respect. Consumers in Mumbai pay approximately Rs 7 per kilolitre (1,000 litre). When something is scarce and needs to be used with utmost care, we need to respect it. This change in attitude can be brought about by a higher water tariff. Think about it, we are willing to pay Rs 20 for a litre of mineral water. Yet, it is mumbles, rumbles and grumbles if we are asked to pay Rs 30 for a kilolitre of water. That then, is elementary, my dear water Watson, since it is cheap, we do not respect it. Meanwhile, let us not forget all the political games going around for water, and how politicians use this resource to play politics, make electoral promises, go one-up on their rivals and all the shenanigans that gain traction, especially when we hear water scarcity alarm bells peal or elections near.

In Mumbai today, we do have water, we are not experiencing a crippling crunch. Yet, what I find abominable and unacceptable is that we use good quality BMC drinking water to flush our toilets. A resource literally and figuratively, going down the drain. What we should be doing is using ‘grey’ water for things like flushing. The bath water and kitchen water can be collected into a tank installed at ground level in housing societies. This can be done by a plumber. This water can be filtered through a simple micron filter. The same water can be pumped into a separate tank and used for flushing. This will take some work by mammoth housing societies and just a little investment. Minimal effort but maximum results, which is substantial water conservation.

Even the water that we use in kitchens, for cooking, washing veggies etc. can be collected in a drum, which a plumber can do through a pipe, filtered and reused after that for mopping, for instance. This also gives you considerable savings.

Citizens have to be made aware through civic authorities. Mumbaikars of course, have to look at Bengaluru which is struggling today. One cannot be smug and say this will not be our situation. Water tankers in Bengaluru are going at Rs 6,000. We need to take preventive steps right now. Young entrepreneurs are certainly not joking when they remark cynically that the water business is the best business to get into today.

When environmentalists red flag events happening elsewhere, they are called alarmists. That cannot be further from the truth. I urge people to read the ‘unwritten’ fine print. When a five per cent cut is announced, remember it is election time and a higher figure may not be quoted. The on-ground reality is that the cut may be a slightly higher percentage, though.

Enough and more has been written and said about individual conservation. The tendency, unfortunately, when there is a water cut is not to practise saving but in fact, to buy water. That is why mindsets need to change, followed by practice. Whether during water cuts or in times when there is enough supply, keep in mind that the resource is precious and scarce and go back to the fourth ‘R’ which does not mean ‘Read’ and forgotten but stands for respect. Dry days in this all-important context too, are not fun days.

Rs 7
Price Mumbaikars pay per kilolitre 

The columnist is the founder of Mission Green Mumbai

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