'Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink.'
The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see. A saying that we heard in the past as a mere quote has turned into the very stark reality of the present. Everybody knows that pollution refers to the contamination of the environment with harmful and undesirable wastes. Pollution has now become at par with the conventional crimes. As water is scarce and its demand is likely to increase further, it needs more attention. After air pollution, water pollution is the most serious threat faced by the whole world! Everybody knows it and sees it but few are concerned for it.
If man just thinks about the quality of life in the past and the present, he can realize what big difference there is. Man has definitely improved his life as far as technical and material things are concerned, but at the cost of exploiting the nature at an intolerable level. As far as the environment is concerned, its quality has deteriorated drastically. The air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and the land that we walk on, is polluted. It is true that the most difficult thing in this world is to appreciate what we have- until we lose it. We have started to think and care about our water resources when they are getting depleted or polluted. Had this consciousness been there from the very beginning, this day would not have come or would have been postponed till a longer time. Now, the question to be answered is as to how does pollution take place.
Domestic wastes, industrial, effluents, agricultural wastes, etc are the major pollutants entering our water bodies. Many rivers and other water bodies receive a heavy flux of pollutants in the form of sewage containing nutrients and toxins. Industrial discharge contains chemicals and organic compounds which enter the bodies of many aquatic animals. Even ground water is polluted from the soakage pits, septic tanks, manure, garbage, etc. Most of the problems occur due to the lack of proper sanitation facilities and waste disposal system. Loading and unloading of oil and petroleum in the tankers along the shore results in oil spills that are a menace as they affect not only water but aquatic life as well. Agricultural wastes contain pesticides and chemicals, which add to water pollution as by way of filling them up with nitrates and phosphates. These pollutants obviously create an ecological imbalance in the water bodies.
After understanding the causes, it becomes necessary to know the consequences of water pollution. All the water pollutants are responsible for decreasing the self-purifying ability of the water bodies. This means that these lose the capacity to recycle the wastes. Nutrients cause excessive weed growth and algal blooms, which are evident to everyone observing the Dal Lake. Despite spending crores on it, the result is inconspicuous. One is able to witness the de-weeding machines but not the supposedly 'crystal clear' water of the Dal.
The repercussions of this issue are many. Water clarity is affected and the water bodies become shallower. Algae consume most of the available oxygen, thereby increasing what is termed as the Biological Oxygen Demand and decreasing the Dissolved Oxygen level. Also, the rate of photosynthesis is decreased, killing many aquatic plants. Soil erosion brings a lot of silt into the water bodies, thus decreasing the water quality. The lying of cow dung along the periphery of water bodies enriches them with undesirable chemicals. Water pollution as such leads to water borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, diarrhea, hepatitis, jaundice, dysentery, etc. Various unwanted plants and effluents give them a marsh-like look, not to talk of the foul smell emanating from them. Water pollution can even render the water unfit for industrial or agricultural purposes, let alone for drinking! Encroachments formed on the water bodies have lead to drastic shrinking of the total area. An example of this is the Anchar Lake that has turned into a marsh. River Jhelum has been turned into a drain due to solid wastes and effluents entering into this water body. Its fish population is diseased. Dal Lake can be nicknamed as 'a polluted pond'.
To state some facts:
- According to a UN report, some 1.3 million barrels of oil are spilled into the Persian Gulf annually. About 285 million gallons of oil are spilled into the oceans every year.
- It is believed that more than a billion people living in the developing nations lack access to safe drinking water. About 30,000 aquatic birds can die due to oil spill from a small tank!
- About 90% of the sewerage water gets discharged into the environment without any treatment in the Third World nations.
- 90% of the river pollution is due to human wastes.
- 80% of the diseases in India are water related. About 15 lakh children die due to diarrhea every year.
- Lake Ari in the USA has vanished due to pollution.
- In Minamata Bay of Japan, 10,000 people were poisoned by mercury present in it from the industrial waste.
- All the 14 rivers in India are polluted.
- Dal Lake is listed among the 93 sick lakes of the world. Its water plant, called Eurale ferox, has perished.
- 40% area of Anchar Lake is subject to encroachment.
It was on 5th June 1972 that the UN General Assembly established the 'World Environment Day'. The message to prevent pollution and degradation of natural resources is being spread since 1972 but still our environment is in a dismal state. Unfortunately in India, environmental issues don't receive the kind of attention they demand and deserve. American researchers have claimed to use solar power to clean up polluted water cheaply. As such technology is not available in the developing and underdeveloped nations, we need to stress on prevention rather than cure. To start with:
- Keep yourself properly informed about the current environmental issues. Public awareness is highly important and hence correct information should be provided to the masses.
- Associations can be formed primarily for the purpose of educating the masses about the environment.
- Some kind of environment tax must be levied to make the people responsible and accountable citizens. Offenders must be penalized. This is possible if proper patrolling is done around the water bodies.
- Never litter. Use a dustbin.
- Recycle what can be re-used.
- Save water by using it judiciously.
- Support the conservation and government groups, provided they do some concrete work.
- Construction in the green belt areas should be prohibited completely.
- Residential houseboats ought to be removed in lieu of fair compensation to the dwellers.
- Promote sanitation. The problem can be solved to a great extent by the installation of sewerage treatment plant, especially in the areas surrounding the water bodies.
It is not so difficult nor is it so simple but it would go a long way in making our city, state, country, world, and planet more clean and healthy. Though many laws like the Water Pollution Act, 1974 and Control of Water Pollution were constituted in India, much more than mere passing of Acts and framing of laws needs to be done. Nature and man must work together. If we won't care about nature, nature too won't bother to nurture us. Our topmost priority should be to combat pollution. It is the duty of every citizen to prevent further pollution though greater responsibility lies with the political and legal systems. Though many voluntary organizations have come forward to fight for environmental causes, much more work needs to be undertaken in the direction of implementation. We have created these problems, now we have to provide a solution. If we don't save our water resources, then we can soon bid them goodbye.
'It is true that we do not inherit the world from our parents;
We borrow it from our children.'
Thus, the most important reason to save this important component of the world is that the future generations should not be deprived of something that rightly belongs to them too.