You would have to be a total hermit to not have heard about the ice bucket challenge, an initiative of of the ALS, an organisation promoting awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The challenge is to pour a bucket of ice over yourself or pay 100$ and then go on to nominate 5 people to do the same. The challenge went viral and the association has raised millions of dollars. Good for them. I wish I could come up with a challenge that would raise the money I need to secure project why’s morrows. Am still waiting for that epiphany.
The reason for this blog is not to criticise; neither it is a case of ‘grapes are sour’. It is just a gentle reminder, particularly to those of us who live in country’s like India, of the value or water and thus the famed ice bucket that is water in another from. Water is a precious resource that we take for granted until its scarcity hits us. Remember how irate you feel when the tap runs dry as someone forgot to switch on the pump or because of an electricity outage. At most, when there is a water crisis, we have the means to ‘buy’ water from a tanker and use it with alacrity and impunity till the need of another tanker. But that is just one tiny side of the story.
The picture you see is a picture taken by one of our Okhla kids. It is a picture taken in his ‘home’. This is all the water a family of 5 has for a day and that too if someone got up in time, at some unearthly hour, to go to the municipal tap/tanker, fight her/his way and fill as much as possible. This will be used to bathe, clean, cook and drink! And this is the daily routine of most families living in slums. You can see in the picture that one cannot vouch for the quality of the water.
Women have to walk miles and miles in certain states to get access to water and that too is limited to the amount they can carry. Imagine how much energy is spent each and every day. Our project why girls start getting fidgety around 3.45 pm as water comes at 4pm and they have to fill it before the tap runs dry and hour later. Sometimes the queue is too long and they are unable to get their water, that means a sure trashing when they get home.
We have got so used to opening a tap and getting water that we cannot imagine life without it and often do not think at it as the most valuable resource in the world and our critical lifeline. Just imagine if water was taken away from your life for a day, week, month? And yet we waste it every moment of the day. Do you realise that to live you need water first and foremost and then food, the two things we waste with abandon. You would agree that marbled homes, and costly jewellery and outrageously priced cars cannot replace the simple H2O.
But that is not all. Not having access to clean drinking water is the cause of the death of 5000 children a day. It is also the cause of malnourished children, malnourished adults who then tend to catch infections as their immunity is extremely low. Most diseases are water borne, and some can even be fatal.
Lack of water has under consequences. Most of the community toilets and toilets in schools have to be locked up because of lack of water to keep them operational and clean. With no toilet facility in schools, girls often drop out, more so after reaching puberty. Adults have no option than defecate in the open and the risk of illnesses grows by quantum leaps as human faeces carries many diseases. Adequate toilets with proper disposal could end this aberration. And yet in a city like ours we still waste water every second of every hour.
So a challenge like the ice bucket challenge seems absurd in a country where there are still millions who do not have access to clean drinking water. The fact that many of our country mates joined the challenge compelled me to write this blog in order to highlight a reality we all seem to have forgotten: that water is more precious than anything else in the world and it is time we stopped wasting it.