To-day the water situation in Madras is critical. There is hardly any water. Hopefully it will rain soon.
In such a critical situation several facts about water usage are coming out. Though the papers have yet to give consolidated figures of water consumption by various sectors, some figures are often quoted. Even in normal days, the residents in Madras receive less than 64 litres per day per capita. For the city of over 4 million people, it works out to approximately 55 million gallons a day. To-day they receive much less than halt this amount. Of course, the water is not equally distributed, with some areas and with middle class and upper class homes getting much larger than their share. Madras Refinery and Fertilizer units alone consume 2 million gallons a day in normal times. Various non-essential industries in Manali belt consume 7-9 million gallons a day. Even today Railways, Port Trust and Central Reserve Police Force receive 1.55, 0.5 and 0.2 million gallon a day respectively, etc., etc. Besides, various industries in Madras pumps out 5 million gallons of ground-water every day. The construction industry in city pumps out 2.5 million gallons a day.
The groundwater is depleting very fast. People are digging deeper to get some water. There is a fear that salt water will be struck soon causing massive problems. Still the digging goes on.
It is also being recognized that in many middle and upper class homes, there is a lot of wastage of water. Flush, particularly those associated with western type of toilets, is wasting upto 30 to 40 per cent of water consumed in homes. Yet another source of wastage is wash-basin and running water. Everytime one takes water to wash one's face, (or shave or brush), the water keeps running; probably 5 to 10 times water goes down the drain. Use of bucket and mug is more desirable.
Hopefully it will rain in a few days. This water famine wilt gets over. These talks will be forgotten. Even in normal days, women in slums have to wait for hours to get water. But there will be water for flush toilets and wash-basins. If every one in the city was to use flush-toilets and wash-basins, even 10 times the water available today, will be insufficient. These can only be available to few at the expense of the others. It is said that the wash-basins and running water are used because it is convenient to do so. May be, it is true; we have become so habituated to it. But ingrained in this convenience is wastage, inequality and injustice a few will use water, others will have to do with very little or none. What have we come to? How can the concepts of convenience or beautiful be separated from that of justice and equality? How can something which is unjust be considered as convenience?
Today because of chronic water shortage, affecting even the upper - middle class, we may come up with devices ,to reduce this wastage. But did we think of the consequences when, copying the West, we started using the flush-toilets and wash-basins? Why is this only an after thought? Why at the time of adoption did we not think of wastage, of grabbing the water from others? We called it progress Why have we so uncritically accepted the West's definition of advancement and convenience
Today, people may listen to all this. But if we raise these questions tomorrow, after the rains, even our friends will look at us with astonishment. They will say, that we want to go to jungles, go backward. To not accept what is unjust, unequal, wasteful as convenience is it backwardness? Isn't it time to be proud of this backwardness?
Author: Madras Group