By Leela Mayor
A Reiterated Wake-up Call to an Anomaly of Nature
The beauty of water. The beauty of the rains that nurture us, feed us, bring delight to the senses with the heady smell of the parched earth which hisses and steams a perfume into the air. People have attempted to replicate this aroma with perfume or “ittr” called “mitti” but nature can’t be captured in a bottle…it is beyond packaging. Ironically nature gave birth to cloth and paper – an early means of packaging. We turned nature into consumables rather than stand back and stare…and perhaps very soon we will neither have the “time to stand and stare” nor anything to stare at. And we are now seeing very strong signals of that in erratic weather patterns, droughts followed by floods, rampant earthquakes and strong signals that lead us to perhaps start to question how much more burden can the planet bear. There are many contradictions in the laws of physics and some justify this over-production by saying neither can matter be created nor can it be destroyed but there is another contrary law which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And I think we are beginning to see that the latter is asserting itself like a Gorgon. Perhaps we would like to just commit ourselves and generations to come to oblivion simply in the interest of the short term view of what the present and life should constitute.
But, let me come back to water – we are heading towards the much prophesized “Parched Earth Concept”.
Water has one of the longest entries in Wikipedia, translated into an equally lengthy list of languages. For me to reiterate it all would be ridiculous as neither would I be able to get away from how it is written nor will I in the space I have given myself to write be as comprehensive and detailed as the entry. I urge you to read it. Here is the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water.
Water is all encompassing, ever necessary, life-sustaining. It is one of the simplest molecules in chemistry – displaying the sheer elegance of atomic bonding. Many cultures and religions consider water to be one of the main elements of the life force, “tattva” or “chi” for want of a better word. Do we really need to do what we do to it every moment of our lives! We pollute it, we disregard how we use it, we waste it, although we are aware that it is rapidly becoming a scarce source. In short, we disrespect it. In the Wikipedia entry, there are two images of the sheer artistry that forms of water produce. One is of snowflakes and the other is of a spider web with droplets of water. The complexity in such simplicity is what water represents to me.
Conceptually what does water say to me – it takes the shape of the vessel it is given, it sometimes overruns these boundaries. It displays the qualities of the human mind. But it has the right to do so more so than us humans. Our bodies are composed of about 55-78% water depending on the body. Without it, we would cease to exist. Yet, we overstep our boundaries, we negate our surroundings, we disrespect others and then go and take a dip in the holy rivers or receive water sacraments. What about respecting the water both within us and within each other…surely that is worthy of as much respect as that holy dip or consecration. What about respecting the water that comprises and now I quote briefly from Wikipedia:
“Water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface. It is vital for all known forms of life. On Earth, 96.5% of the planet’s water is found in seas and oceans, 1.7% in groundwater, 1.7% in glaciers and the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland, a small fraction in other large water bodies, and 0.001% in the air as vapor, clouds, (formed of solid and liquid water particles suspended in air), and precipitation. Only 2.5% of the Earth’s water is freshwater, and 98.8% of that water is in ice and groundwater. Less than 0.3% of all freshwater is in rivers, lakes, and the atmosphere, and an even smaller amount of the Earth’s freshwater (0.003%) is contained within biological bodies and manufactured products.
Some observers have estimated that by 2025 more than half of the world’s population will be facing water-based vulnerability. A report, issued in November 2009, suggests that by 2030, in some developing regions of the world, water demand will exceed supply by 50%.
The economics of water is complex. It is an essential commodity and life force for every living being and creature. Current notions in India of privatizing water and using it as a commodity of trade needs to take into consideration the complex nature of the economics of various households. How is a person who is not too solvent going to be able to afford to pay for water when they can barely afford food! There has to be some kind of gradation in the distribution and sale of water and ensuring equal supply to all. The ability to not afford does not mean that the quantum of need is less. In a country also where there is rampant corruption (this is not a new story) how are these issues going to be addressed. Over and above the issues of supply lie the facts of education on use and conservation. These are complex questions and to offer a solution is almost like searching for a needle in a haystack. Perhaps a combination of private enterprise and government intervention and intensive monitoring and assessment of resources versus demand and use or misuse have to be mobilized on a serious and national level. This would mean setting in place stringent practices that monitor, distribute equitably, and penalize misuse. Perhaps what this suggests is an independent “Water Use Policing Unit”. But how will this work? In India metering is only possible to a certain extent. Even in urban areas how is the metering going to be programmed to suit the household’s ability to pay. In rural areas and especially those that have canals or are riverine there is a proclivity to draw water directly from these sources. How are these going to be monitored? There are many such questions that need to be answered and those that can go towards a comprehensive water policy.
In the end, all of us right from society to industry collude to wastewater. This is yet another voice in the clarion call that we are receiving from nature. All stand responsible to conserve, recycle, purify, stop soil contamination, stop contamination of groundwater, to stop contamination of natural resources.
One of the things I do is work with our family business. We try and understand how to preserve, reuse and protect water and our environment. We at Permionics offer many solutions for the sustainable use of water in areas such as the Industrial, Domestic, Wastewater, Water Desalination, Portable systems for Rural Water Supply, Solar energy and Diesel Powered mobile systems and systems that can be used to provide water in disaster-stricken areas.
It is an uplifting and joyous experience and I share my father’s dream that one day every one of us will learn to respect the water and have access to it in its pristine, clear, healthy form – untainted by us. Please read the section “Our Founder” in our website (www.permionics.com) [Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Membrane Science and Technology Awarded by the Indian Desalination Association]. As one of our contributions to the society we have collaborated with a number of Government Agencies and NGOs to offer sustainable solutions for water, ecology, people’s needs, and conservation. Please also refer to the sections on Yester Years, Today and Our Process, R&D and Membrane Development sections. Water and Wastewater Treatment would also be obvious sections to look at.
About the Author
Leela Mayor represents Permionics Membranes Private Limited.
Permionics Membranes has the unique distinction of being the first & only company in India till date to indigenously manufacture Reverse Osmosis (RO), Ultra-Filtration (Ultrafiltration), Nano-Filtration membranes for various process specific applications and wastewater recycling, zero liquid discharge, purified water, desalination of seawater and USP purified water system.
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