It has rained this year. Rained a lot in most of India. Just at the beginning of season. Within two weeks of heavy rain, most of the reservoirs in Mumbai were full to brim and over flowing. A good sign for Mumbai since the rain had struggled to fill them up last year, and many previous years, leading to scarcity and water cuts in the following summers. Mumbai shouldn’t face water shortage next summer. Or will it?
It reminds me of one summer night, quite a few years back, when Mumbai and the neighboring regions faced one of the most acute water shortage. The priority of water supply during that time was given to the mega polis while the far suburbs were left to depend on the supply by water tankers. Unhygienic and irregular. Though we had our own well for the water supply, we too felt the heat since the water table had gone down and the wells filled up very slowly. But comparing the neighboring regions where people had to depend on tap water/tanker supply, we were “well off”.
So it was one summer night about 9.00 pm and we at home were engrossed in our daily activity. Eating and being entertained by the idiot box. The door bell rang. My father faced a middle aged man, about 35-40 years aged as he opened the door. The man had come in an auto rickshaw and had stopped to enquire about the directions to the house of a man going by last name “Pereira”. You throw a stone in our region and 100s of Pereiras/Gonsalves/Dsouzas will get hurt. So my father was not sure which Pereira he was referring to. Upon further enquiry, the man revealed that he lived in the neighboring region with his family and they were facing severe water shortage. This person worked with Pereira in some company in city and Pereira had asked this person to come to his house, without full address or first name, and Pereira would give him some water. We knew the It would be impossible for this person to find Pereira at this hour(mobile phones were not as widely used then as now) so my father offered to give him the water he required. The man had brought along few empty cans in rickshaw and went home with filled ones for his drinking needs, keeping me wondering and worried whether he would come back again to draw from our limited supply. He didn’t come. I assume there was truly a Pereira and the man had asked his first name and proper address the next time.
Coming to present, will the overflowing reservoirs be sufficient to quench the ever growing thirst of Mumbai this time around. We are people who take things for granted, thinking that water comes from tap and goes down the drain, without appreciating the bigger cycle which continues in the background. The Water-Sun-Evaporates-Clouds-Condensate-Rain-Water cycle. Most of the water these days is consumed in offices where the “I don’t care” attitude prevails. Then there are these elite class of residencies in the city for whom there is no control over water consumption. This is where we waste a lot of water. For such people, water comes from tap and not from the dams. As of now, everyone thinks that since all the dams are full there won’t be scarcity during summer. But one thing we forget. Mumbai is ever growing, thus an ever growing demand of water to fulfill. The capacity of reservoirs supplying water to Mumbai has not increased a liter all this years and there is not chance of it increasing in near future. But we are accustomed to a habit of moving from abundance to scarcity by our over abuse of the abundance. When do we control ourselves?
Unless we learn to appreciate the efforts taken by the environment to provide us potable water, we will never put an effort to reduce the load on the environment and the ecosystem. Unless we strive to not waste that drop of water we waste, I see another summer of scarcity.