It was a bright sunny day, and I was patiently listening to my science teacher talk about the importance of water. During the discussion, he mentioned that 71 percent of the earth is covered with water, but only one percent of this water is available as freshwater! I was shocked. Is this all? Only one percent!
Later that day I discussed it with my parents. I had several questions. Over the weekend, they took me to a lake, a few kilometres away from my house in Delhi. What I thought was going to be another family excursion turned into a learning opportunity that opened my eyes.
As we reached the lake, I noticed the sadness in my mother’s eyes. When I asked her about this, she responded that the lake during her childhood had been much larger in size. Disappointed by this, my parents took me to the banks of the river Yamuna which flows through our city. I was instantly welcomed by a foul smell. My vision was not spared of the grotesque state of the river, either. I saw polythene bags floating on the surface of the river, and the colour of the water was a dirty brown.
I felt disheartened. I had learnt about the mighty Yamuna in Geography: how it originates in the mountains and tumbles down to meet the Ganga. The picturesque image I had in mind of rivers—crystal clear water, animals playing in the water—was shattered. I decided to discuss this with my science teacher.
The next day, I bombarded him with my questions. He explained that several factors, including extreme heat, inefficient use for irrigation, deforestation, and pollution have contributed to the sorry state of the water bodies that quench our thirst. He added that people recklessly throw away garbage, polluting our rivers without thinking of the long-term consequences. Furthermore, industries discharge untreated sewage into rivers, posing a risk to both the biodiversity of the river and us. He asked me to remember the contribution of trees to the water cycle, and think about how deforestation might impact the water level in freshwater bodies.
I was filled with despair, realising that an important resource is suffering such a painful death. My friends and I decided to find solutions to this problem. With my teacher’s help, we shortlisted a few ideas. First, by minimising plastic waste and recycling plastic instead of dumping it in the rivers, we as citizens can contribute to solving the problem of plastic pollution. Second, we should install rainwater harvesting systems in our houses to prevent water loss. Third, while irrigating, farmers should use the drip irrigation method as it is very efficient and there is no wastage of water. Fourth, the government should ban industries from releasing untreated waste directly into rivers. We should also promote activities such as afforestation and reforestation in affected regions. It is also important to raise public awareness about water pollution and depletion.
While some of these might not be easily achieved, I have started to be more aware of the choices I make and resources I use in daily life. I also try to advocate for environmentally friendly practices among my friends and family. While my contribution will seem tiny in the greater picture, I believe it is as essential as a drop of water that contributes to forming an ocean.
Image: Anvi Sharma