Water is the most important natural resource on the earth’s surface. It is essential for sustaining life and for all human activities such as drinking and household purposes, livestock farming, agricultural and industrial purposes. Owing to climate change and absence of rainfall in the recent years there is a shortage in the supply of potable water which is adversely impacting all living beings on earth. Water must be harnessed in the most scientific and efficient manner to prevent scarcity and tackle extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods.
With a tremendous increase in population over the years, there is an immense pressure on water resources. Water from the oceans, rivers and lakes are being depleted due to excessive usage by human activities. This results in a poor quality of water and causes water pollution.
Due to rapid industrialization, the pollutants and effluents from the industries are directly being released into the environment which has a negative impact on the eco-system. Industries require large amounts of water to function efficiently. This necessitates contact of water with heavy metals, hazardous radioactive contaminants or waste and organic sludge. These impurities are then either dumped into oceans or rivers which results in large amounts of chemical contaminants which can affect the health of all living beings.
How serious is the problem? According to the environmental campaign organization WWF: “Pollution from toxic chemicals threatens life on this planet. Every ocean and every continent, from the tropics to the once-pristine polar regions, is contaminated.”
Water Crisis involves two aspects:
- Water Scarcity
- Water Pollution.
1. Water scarcity:
Water scarcity in India includes water stress and water shortage. Water shortage occurs due to climate change leading to an altered weather pattern (insufficient rainfall, floods, drought, melting glaciers etc.), increased pollution causing shortage of potable water, increased population resulting in the overuse of water. The main causes of water scarcity are:
- Excessive wastage of water due to archaic methods of irrigation practices. India is one of the leading rice producer in the world apart from a host of other agricultural produce. Therefore, the consumption of water for irrigation purpose is enormous. Old methods of irrigation cause loss of large amounts of water due to evaporation, and drainage.
- The lack of proper methods of disposing industrial effluents and sewage waste is severely affecting the availability of potable water. The wastewater and sewage directly or indirectly flow into the traditional water bodies such as rivers, lakes and ponds etc. That cause several diseases such as typhoid, dysentery and other communicable diseases and allergies.
- Lack of effective water management and distribution of water affect the quantity and quality of water available for use.
- Excess migration of population to the city with unplanned construction in all directions, has resulted in the shrinking of water resources across all the urban centers in India.
A major example of water crisis was the water shortage of the river Ganga in West Bengal. The power station in West Bengal was shut down for 10 days because of water crisis. The authorities were forced to suspend the generation at the 2300 Megawatt plant in Farakka Town causing water shortage in India’s power grid. All the people were served with thousands of bottled waters for drinking purposes and fire engines were rushed to the river to extract water for domestic purposes.
SOLUTIONS TO OVERCOME THE SCARCITY OF WATER:
The major Solutions to all this issue is as follows:
- Boosting the traditional groundwater aquifers by undertaking projects aimed at injecting excess water into the underground aquifers.
- Reducing and recycling the use of water and effective waste water treatment technologies.
- Establishing desalination units can provide solution to water scarcity issue.
- Efficient Water Resource Management techniques.
- Water conservation such as rain water harvesting.
- Infrastructure repair and maintenance of water channels. Leakage of the pipes and sewage systems causes water wastage and contamination.
2. Water Pollution:
Water pollution can be defined as any physical and/or chemical change which is detrimental to any living organism. Pollution is caused by the contamination of water bodies (such as lakes, rivers, oceans etc.) either due to
- Natural processes for example, sediments produced by natural erosion.
- Due to wastes produced by human activity.
- Pollutants and effluents from industrial activity released into water bodies without proper treatment or removal of harmful compounds.
Effects of water pollution:
- Sewage disposal has affected our environment which has led to water related illness such as dysentery, typhoid etc. According to a survey conducted by World Health Organization, some 780 million people don’t have access to safe and clean drinking water, while 2.5 billion don’t have access to proper sanitation. Almost 90% of the sewage is water.
- Waste water: most of the industries are the main cause of water pollution. Some of the household products such as detergents, pesticides and even the chemicals which we use for cleaning ends up going into the drainage and then to the rivers and lakes. This toxic chemical pollute the groundwater making it increasingly toxic as the years goes.
- The highly-contaminated chemicals coming out from the industries finds its way into the oceans and then to the rivers and lakes causing water pollution and impacting the health of all the living beings.
- Another kind of toxic pollution comes from heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium and mercury. Lead was once commonly used in gasoline, but now it has been restricted in many countries. Mercury and cadmium are still used in batteries. Recently a highly toxic chemical called tributyltin was used in paints to protects the boat from the devastating effects of the oceans. But later, tributyltin was recognized as a pollutant. The chemical was causing damage to the oceans causing pollution.
- Radioactive waste coming from the nuclear industries also causes harmful effect to the oceans and to the eco-system.
- Oil pollution and plastics also cause water pollution.
Solutions to curb water pollution:
- Education: public awareness on cause of water pollution will make a positive impact on our society.
- Well drafted Laws and its proper implementation: One of the major problems with water pollution is its transboundary nature. As we know that many rivers and seas are spread across different countries and continents. Pollution discharged by industries in one country with bad environmental standards can cause problems with the other neighboring nations even when they have tough laws and regulations. These laws make it tougher for the people to pollute, but for their growth and development they should operate across national and international borders, therefore we have international environmental laws governing the oceans. Examples of such laws are 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea(signed by over 120 nations), the 1972 London (Dumping) Convention, the 1978 MARPOL International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, and the 1998 OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic.
- Applying “Polluters Pay” principal. This principal states that those who pollute or those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing to prevent the damage to humans and their environment.
The time has now arrived to take initiatives to reduce the environmental pollution for a better future. Overall the best and the most important choice we can make as humans, is to reduce the consumption. The day we start reducing our consumption there are some chances that we will be free from water scarcity and pollution.
Woodford, C. (2016, June 05). Water pollution: An introduction to causes, effects, solutions. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://www.explainthatstuff.com/waterpollution.htm