Water for life

Published about 16 hours ago

Steps for conservation of water are no more an option but vital for survival

Daddy was sombre as he was going through the newspaper at the breakfast table. Looking up at his children, 14-years-old Hammad, 10-years-old Asif and seven-years-old Humna, he asked, “Children do you have any idea how lucky you are? I am sure you are not even aware of your blessings.”

A bit surprised by this remark Hammad asked, “Why do you say so daddy?”

“Look at this,” he said as he turned the newspaper towards the kids.

“Who is this woman and why is she filling the dirty water in her bucket?” Asif couldn’t help asking.

With a rueful smile, daddy replied, “Children this is a woman from Tharparkar and she is filling water for her household use. I am sure you know that Thar is a big desert in Pakistan.”

“Ughh! It’s dirty water! And the camel is also drinking from the same pond! Daddy, why doesn’t this woman use water from the taps in her house?” Humna asked innocently.

“This is because she has no taps at home and has to walk a long distance in the hot sun to collect water, which she and her family will use for cooking, drinking and washing.”

Humna looked perplexed. Then her father drew her close and said, “Thar is a desert and people live there in huts made out of mud, straw or hay. So ‘facilities’ like taps or clean drinking water are not there. Not only this woman, in fact all the other people living there have no choice other than using unhygienic salty water. And they consider themselves lucky to have even that. Don’t you think you are lucky, as you have taps with ample running water through them and access to clean drinking water also!”

Daddy usually liked to discuss serious issues with the children in a light tone as he wanted to create awareness in them about everyday problems and how they could play a positive role in solving them.

The children listened with interest and empathy as daddy continued, “We are living in a crucial age when steps for conservation of water are no more an option but vital for survival. Water shortage is becoming a global problem due to increasing population, economic growth and climate changes.

“Today, clean drinking water is only around one per cent of the water reserves worldwide. It is a very precious commodity, but as we seldom face a scarcity of it in our lives, we cannot even imagine the sufferings of the millions of people who are facing an acute shortage of this vital resource. Do you know that 80 per cent of all illnesses and more than one-third deaths in developing countries are due to drinking unsafe water?”

“Daddy, as we have heavy rains in the monsoon and snowfall in the mountains in winter, I guess the situation is not so bad in Pakistan,” Hammad looked towards daddy as if seeking reassurance!

“I am sorry children, but the harsh truth is that the current water situation in Pakistan is far from satisfactory. Our water requirements are met basically by annual glacier melts and monsoon rains. With the change in the climate, an ever growing population, inefficient long-term planning and scarcity of reservoirs, much of this water is not used to yield maximum benefits.

“When there is excessive rain, this precious water either floods the plains and the villages, causing havoc, or is carried away unutilised to the sea. Most of the year, we have a drought-like situation when people do not have sufficient water for their basic needs. By international standards, Pakistan is considered a water-scarce country.”

“Do you think we can do anything to improve the situation?” Asif’s little face looked concerned.

“Ah, that was the point I was trying to bring to your attention! We all talk about change but we forget that in order to bring change and improve the situation in our country, we should also be part of the change. This rule stands for all problems we are facing today. I would like each one of you to give your suggestions on water conservation. Think about it and we will get back on this important topic after dinner.”

The children looked excited as they finished dinner. Little Humna, the youngest, wanted to speak first.

“I have been thinking all day, and have a few ideas. When I brush my teeth twice each day, I usually leave the tap running. But from now on, I will make it a point to turn off the tap after wetting my brush and turn it on only after I have brushed properly and have to rinse my mouth. Also, I will make my baths shorter. While I rub on the soap, I will not waste water by letting the shower run.”

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Daddy smiled, “Do you know my dear that we lose three gallons of water per minute if we keep the water running unnecessarily. We should also apply this rule to the numerous times we wash our hands daily. By taking these simple steps, a lot of water can be saved.”“What are your suggestions Hammad?” Daddy turned to the eldest.

“I usually wash the car and water the lawn. I have checked on internet that the evening is the best time for watering lawns as water is not lost to evaporation. From now on, when I wash the car, instead of the garden hose, I will use a couple of buckets of water and a mop, and I will water the garden after sunset. I have also resolved to use the shower only once a week and the rest of the days I will use a bucket of water for bathing. What right do I have to take leisurely showers when more than one billion people in the world do not even have access to safe drinking water!” he said in a sad tone.

Arif was the last to speak, “Daddy, I have thought of something very important. We often ignore leaking taps and faulty flushes which causes a lot of water to go waste. From now on, I will make it my duty to check every tap, shower and flush to ensure that not even a drop of precious water is wasted. Whenever there is rain, I shall put buckets and tubs outside to collect the rain water. We will later use it to wash the driveway or the muddy corridors.”

Mummy too joined the discussion and said in a guilty tone, “I have a confession to make. To make my work easier, I often let the hot water in the sink run while I scrub the dishes. To save time, I place frozen meat or poultry under the tap so that it thaws quickly. I also use the washing machine without a full load. From now on, I shall give up these practices as they waste a lot of water.”

“Great ideas!” Daddy said in a pleased tone. “Now I will tell you about some steps being taken for the conservation of water on the international level.

“The water we use in bathrooms, kitchen sinks, dishwashers and washing machines is called ‘grey water’, while the water we use in toilets is named “black water’. In many developed countries it is a common practice to collect grey water in storage tanks, treat it to remove impurities and solid wastes, and reuse in gardens and toilet flushes. But it is important to keep in mind that any such system for collecting and reusing this water should be properly installed and well-maintained. Also, remember that grey water should never be used for cooking, bathing and drinking as it can be dangerous for health.”

“Other methods used globally for conservation of water are collecting rain water in artificial lakes or in small dams. This water is later used for irrigation, power generation or channelled through canals to dry areas.”

Winding up the discussion, Daddy said, “Children, we could talk on this topic all night, but you have school tomorrow. But before you go to your rooms, I would like to tell you one more thing. The teachings of Islam also stress on the conservation of water. In a well-known Hadith related in Ibn-e-Majah, our beloved Prophet (PBUH) stressed on ‘using water economically even if a person is on the bank of a flowing stream’.”