Sustainable Development in Northern India
Hand covered in mango juice, I twist the tap – and abruptly remember that we are completely out of water when it does nothing but make a sad gurgling noise. It is a hot morning (as all mornings are in India in the summer), my roommates and I have all just woken up and want to start our day, and I’m trying to figure out how to get mango juice off my hand when there isn’t water coming out of a single tap. It’s not the most auspicious start to the morning.
In the US we talk all the time about how it’s important to conserve water, to protect our aquifers, and other advice that hardly anyone pays attention to (I bet you started to drift off even reading that sentence). It seems like the water will always be there, and even if there’s a shortage, well, there’s still water coming out of your tap, so it can’t be that bad. The majority of Americans (and other westerners), have no idea what it’s like to go to one of the many taps in their house and just not be able to get water. Cooking a meal becomes extremely difficult, showering just isn’t going to happen, you better hope you didn’t have to do any laundry, and I’ll let you imagine for yourself what happens when you can’t flush any of your toilets. Tempers get short, drinking water is obsessively monitored, and as you’re lying in the shade, watching your garden shrivel in the sun, you’re able to think about nothing other than the fact that all the water is gone. In my case, we were only completely out of water for a day, and we had to keep reminding ourselves of that fact whenever we began to come too close to snapping. There are people all over the world who are already living with little to no water as an everyday occurrence – we only had to make it through one day. (If you want to read an excellent book about this, When the Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce is a good bet.) Being faced by an actual shortage made my roommates and me realize just how much we take water for granted, and how important it actually is (I can practically hear you thinking “that’s so trite!” Well, trite things are often true, so stick with me). In the US, we don’t see any immediate effect when we waste water. We don’t see the problem as a big deal, so we just push it on down the road. Well, I can now reliably tell you that all the water being gone, even for a single day, completely and totally sucks.
Since running out of water, my roommates and I have made some changes, becoming ecofriendly to an extent that is almost scary. Most of the changes we’ve made are more extreme than anything we would need to do at home, and they can occasionally be a pain. But you know what? Not having water is a far bigger pain.
– Kayleigh Walters, USA
Organic Farming & SWASH Project Manager, Punjab