When Thirst Beckons
2021, Junior, Creative Writing
Dusk looms large on the village. Dying rays of the sun bleed in the sky. Raju, a boy aged 13, stands by the banks of the river, holding a stained pot by his side. He watches for a moment. Watches the brown waters burble by his feet. Watches the tips of plastic wrappers squirm, submerged under the murkiness. He sees factory waste seeping in. Raju feels a pit growing in his stomach, thirst twisting desperately within his body. He kneels in the sludge.
Raju and his family have been doing this for years. He digs the pot under the river, waits until it fills up, and gulps. There’s a heavy feeling in his chest. The water tastes sour and filthier draining down his throat. Raju should be used to this by now, but he ends up coughing, anyway. He tries sipping again, but the cough remains adamant. The cruel, nauseating liquid leaves his belly aching on his way back home. This will end in vomit, as always. But his family, like many, doesn’t know that its fundamental right is a regular casualty here. It is the inception of the life-threatening tragedy for the waterborne disease-ridden population of the world. How is it that after so many years, people like Raju and his family haven’t yet been helped out of this crisis?
Less than half of the 1.4 billion population of India has access to safe drinking water. And only a few have enough to withstand the consequences. Diseases are common, as ever in drought- and flood-prone areas in a third of the nation. Rapid urbanization, deforestation, pollution of rivers, alarming depletion of groundwater beds, and poverty coupled with massive population have been the major challenges staring at India, and the world as well. Natural water sources are diminishing fast, leaving one in every ten people globally with no access to clean water. So, is anyone doing anything about it?
Yes, in this gloom, there is a growing ray of hope. Around the world, people and resources have been pledged to form organizations and institutions, partnering together, with an agenda to address and act on clean water accessibility for all. Experts have been harping on political will, financial measures, and public awareness as being the potential game-changers in this crisis.
Like how the World Water Council has been promoting the World Water Forum. It has, so far, created a massive impact in the political arena of water security. Conflicting geopolitical agendas of various nations are being addressed to come to a consensus and partake in many constructive efforts, through 300 organizations in more than 50 countries. India is one amongst those countries.
On the other hand, direct financial approach has been adopted by organizations like Water.org. Their fundraiser, WaterCredit, has been providing people around the globe with clean, accessible household water flow, taps, and toilets over the last 30 years.
Awareness initiatives like Project WET (Water Education Today) inspire and inform minds of young influencers of the adversities of water scarcity.
So, are these three aspects of the water revolution enough? It’s clearly not because Raju, along with billions of others, are yet to have clean, potable water at home.
Worldwide influencers, over time, have gradually woken up to the significance of smaller, region-specific, local groups. They understand the local sentiments better. And that ensures effective implementation of larger and noble policies for a lasting impact.
In India, Prime Minister Modi has taken up the preservation of clean water as one of his major nationwide agendas. In 2019, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) was rearranged and re-evaluated to improve on its performance. One of its initiatives, “Swajal,” empowers communities to manage and secure water sources by themselves. Likewise, smaller policy-based organizations like Water for People and The Clean Water Access Project have been instrumental in upgrading local water resources by installing and rehabilitating community water systems and hand-pumps, and developing a network of mobile mechanics known as Jalabandhus (Friends of Water) to further promote sustainability amongst the local water and sanitation committees. So far, more than ten districts and over one million rural population of India have benefited from them. But there’s lot more left to be done.
From communities recognizing the problems, to organizations ensuring empowerment of people, to regions persistent towards cooperation, and to nations motivated towards consensus, these shall, albeit slowly, lead to partnerships, alliances bringing in synergy to the global water conservation movement in the long run.
But then the onus even lies with every household taking small but firm steps everyday towards preservation of each drop of water and ensuring its larger accessibility, so that Raju may finally get his due. His right to life and dignity. A glass of clean water!
Back in India, I used to look upon the churning lakes and rivers in wonder, specifically the divine Ganges River. Sprinkling such holy water on each other is believed to bring good omens to the family. But what had puzzled me was that the river was too brown and muddy. My grandfather had scooped up the filth and was about to sprinkle it on our heads, when my grandmother had cried, “No! The water’s too dirty!” So, I thought, why hasn’t anyone done something to make it cleaner? While on the pathway of research for this competition, I finally found my answer: there have been projects and policies established by India to do something about the situation, the Ganges Action Plan being one. I wound up in a wormhole of information, from world organizations to country institutions, to global challenges and the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. I realized that these smaller country influencers connect with larger, global changemakers to bring a difference. And these country organizations connect with individuals from villages to recognize this problem. The dominoes fall, it butterfly-effects, and it all boils down to one person in a community. Just one person can cause such a movement of water protectors. Just one person! From my side, I have started preserving water, and keeping faucets in good order to stop any leakages. I store rainwater in buckets to feed my indoor plants. My family and I make a conscious effort to save every drop of water in our household and be a proud proponent of this important movement.