By Akhandadhi Das
Still today, thousands of homes throughout Britain are without water – thanks to an unprecedented number of burst water mains. Dwr Cymru, the water company here in Wales, say they’re repairing 200 leaks a day, but the misery for some will continue for a few more days.
And, it is a misery when the water runs dry in the taps. We become starkly reminded how much we rely on this humble substance for almost every domestic activity – as I remember all too vividly from my family’s first winter in Wales. After several days without water, a kind neighbour invited us to use their bath. And, when we identified the problem, another neighbour spent hours with me knee-deep in freezing mud fixing the pipe.
The Hindu texts contain many references to the value of water: “Water guarantees welfare; it banishes ailments; it gives happiness; therefore, acknowledge the primacy of water.”
This isn’t the fanciful reverence of a primitive society. The oldest text, the Rg-veda contains surprising detail on hydrology science: “Being heated by the sun, it says, particles of water rise as vapour, then cool into clouds and are later released as rain. Thus, water is never lost, only continuously converted.”
And, it’s in appreciation of nature’s delicate systems that the Veda encourages us: “The water from rivers, wells and ponds, if used and managed efficiently will reduce the intensity of drought and water scarcity.”
But, recently, I was invited to the premiere of a documentary entitled, The Stolen River highlighting what is seen by many as an example of dreadful mismanagement of water in India. The Yamuna is a massive river that has always flowed from the Himalayas, through Haryana and Uttar Pradesh – until now. It has been dammed and entirely diverted into two channels to irrigate fields for rice production – specifically for export to Europe and the Middle East. Downstream, the old river is dry and dead and more than 80 million people in Delhi, Vrindavan and Agra are denied the water that gave their communities life. Without fresh water, the suffering and death toll of people and life-stock is horrific. A campaign is underway to pressure the government to find a balanced solution.
I feel embarrassed that, out in rural Wales, I’ve been more preoccupied to see money spent on fibre-optic cables than maintenance of the water infrastructure. But, perhaps the resolve to address world-wide problems of water supply can be inspired by the nature of water itself. It is fluid, flexible; soft, yet persistent; and it always finds its way through.
With everything else we’re concerned about, perhaps it’s too easy to overlook just how precious for us water really is.