Erratic rains, floods, drought, water scarcity – What bothers us briefly will be a constant problem if we don’t act now
Come August, and Kerala is probably readying itself to yet another season of flooding. After relatively a less rainy June and July, Kerala was staring at a deficit in its water levels. Most Keralites stared at possibilities of harsh water-stressed months lying ahead of them.
But within the first week of August, the prayers on the lips of Keralites have changed. They hope that it doesn’t turn out to be like the unprecedented floods of last year. In what is probably going to be an annual affair, any states are witnessing a feeble start to the monsoon rains and intense, heavy, and concentrated rainfall in the just a few days toward the middle or end of the season.
Many states, especially in the north-east and south India that once boasted of the plentiful rains that they receive have witnessed a deficit year after and year. Many of these states and elsewhere in India, the months leading up to summer have become dry and water-scarce.
For a nation that still relies on the rain gods for its harvest, such a change in the pattern of rainfall is not good. Though statistically, the rainfall deficit may be low or even nil, the concentration of rainfall just to a few days of heavy showers and floods is not good for the crops, for groundwater replenishment, and storage.
We often forget or tend to ignore the part we have played in creating this erratic situation. Leveling of hills, blocking of rivers, mass felling of trees, and rapid encroachment of catchment areas, flood plains, and paddy fields have all probably contributed to bringing about this situation.
But despite the fears of annual floods and droughts, we still go about living lives the way we please, without even an ounce of concern for what we are destroying. We hardly recognize that our actions are helping dig our own graves. The government authorities too have not woken up to take any drastic control, preventive or change management measures.
If we are to expect such a change in the rainfall and climate patterns, it is important that we take measures to change our ways and lifestyle. Adapting practices such as rainwater harvesting must be made a ‘must-have’ rather than ‘good-to-have’. Our agricultural patterns must also be revisited and improvised to meet the new weather patterns.
We all have learned from our primary school classes that water is an important resource. And the importance of this resource is only set to increase. Conserving, preserving, and strengthening this resource is important.
World Resources Institute ranks India 13th globally among water-stressed nations. The alarming part, however, is that the country has three times the population of the other 17 extremely water-stressed countries.
The day won’t be far when wars will be fought over waters if we don’t conserve this precious and most needed resource. And reviewing how we treat our rivers, lakes, and ponds is crucial to it. So is preserving rainwater and curbing activities that disturb natural ecological processes.
Water scarcity may not have affected us today, but it definitely will in the future, even in our own times, if we don’t mend our ways now.
‘Gitanjali Maria is senior analyst currently residing in Gurgaon ‘