World Water Day, a significant day for environmentalists across the globe, was marked by several kinds of events, in order to celebrate a precious element of nature, and of course, to raise awareness on the potential threat it faces today. One such event was organised by JalSamvaad, a network of organisations in Delhi, working on issues of ecological democracy.
This very low-key event was essentially a call for united action on water issues in Delhi and for equal access to quality water for all. It aimed to raise the important, yet ignored question of whether Delhi wants water at the cost of people residing miles away, in villages, whose water Delhi is now eyeing. Kicked off by a small demonstration near ITO, the 20-odd people here held placards and distributed leaflets on the streets to put across the message that water is a basic human right and equity therefore is unquestionable. Is Delhi being equitable with other states? Are certain areas within Delhi being equitable with certain other areas? It was commonly held by all here that if water use was judicious and not wasteful, there would be no water ‘crisis’ in Delhi, for this ‘scarcity’ has been artificially created by certain classes who have monopolised the water supply for washing cars and watering gardens.
This march was followed by a film-screening of “The Groundwater Up Project”, a short documentary film made on the water situation of Delhi, by three friends, as their first effort in film making. The film is not seeking to answer any questions or present concrete solutions. Instead, it is an expression of wonderment at how a city that has historically been water-rich, reached a situation where it guzzles down water from neighbouring states, leaving them parched. It explores current solutions of dams and sewage treatment plants, and then moves on to highlight more off-beat, creative and smaller initiates being taken up by individuals and small organisations to prevent Delhi from drying up and stealing all the Himalayan water. These smaller initiatives include rainwater harvesting, lake revival, cleaning the Yamuna and so on.
Albeit a small gathering, it was symbolic of people coming together to unite in action on World Water Day, as did several other groups across the city, ensuring that people take note of this life-giving force and spare some time to give it thought.
Currently, India is far off-track in achieving its sanitation targets. Apart from open defecation and lack of sanitation facilities in urban and rural areas; the management of septage has been largely neglected and is not a priority due to the lack of awareness of its heavy contribution to environmental degradation, poor sanitation and ill-effects to health. “Septage” is the waste that accumulates in onsite sanitation systems (OSS e.g.