Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No Water Conservation Drive??

Today, on my way to the office, I had a short conversation with my office driver on hot weather in Lahore and the ‘brilliant’ coping strategy adopted by him for dealing with the heat waves during nights. The driver apprised me that at night he leaves a running water pipe in his room cooler so that water in the room cooler does not finish off in the middle of night. Surprised at his inane approach, I asked him that is not he contributing toward wasting our already ‘depleting’ water resources. My office driver gave an outstanding reply to me saying “No, water is available in abundance in Pakistan. I have installed a water boring machine and a big water storage tank in my house. Every day, I pump water through that boring machine in the water storage tank. The stored water is sufficient enough for my family even if I leave one tap running the whole night”. The bottom line of his message was:  My water tank is full and it belongs to me. I have the full authority to use it the way I want .Even I can leave one tap open at night for my own convenience and it is no wastage”.

Whether call this attitude ignorance or lack of civic responsibility but wasting water is widespread in Pakistan, a country which is declared as ‘water scarce’ in 2009 research conducted by the Woodrow Wilson Centre. In urban centers like Lahore, People would leave their taps running for hours in their houses, or they would wash their houses and streets everyday (though after washing streets they do not mind littering the streets with the same fervor, hence wasting not only water but also their own effort of cleaning the street) or they would wash their cars everyday for hours besides cursing the government for not providing them electricity for 24 hours everyday. Contrarily to this, in remote part of the country people do not get clean water to drink and there women have to cover a long distance to fetch water for drinking and other household uses. But do we know and do we care that water resources are not easily accessible to many Pakistanis.

But do they know that Pakistan has scarce water resources and the rapidly growing population of the country is further exhausting the limited water resources. Or that only 10% of available water resources have been allocated for consumption (for drinking and sanitation purposes) at the household level for the entire population of the country. Or that besides wastage of water by them, there are also system losses or leakages in municipal water supply system. Perhaps they also do not know about the very recent prediction by the Water and Development Authority that the per capita availability of water in Pakistan will further decrease from 1,038 cubic meters in 2010 to 809 cubic meters in 2025. Or that in wake of current water crisis, some responsibility also fall on their shoulders to discontinue old practices of wasting of water.

And why the common masses do not know all these facts? Because, our national media (both print and electronic) is busy in selling products ( beverages, shampoos etc) but its role in spreading awareness pertaining to water conservation to the general public is completely non-existent. Meanwhile, in developed countries such as Australia (which is also a water deficient country), electronic media (television) is actively engaged in spreading water conservation awareness (including recycling of rain water) to Australian population. Similarly, our government is also silent on this issue and same goes with the non-state actors or civil society organizations, whose efforts on promoting water conservation in the country are not very visible. In short, a collective approach for water conservation is altogether missing, which requires all stakeholders including policy-makers, civil society organizations, media and common people to strive toward one goal of using water rationally and responsibly.

Pakistan commemorates World Water Day every year; on this year’s water day, the participating organizations (government and non-government) vowed to raise awareness across the country on water conservation. But that pledge, like many more pledges, has not yet materialized in concrete actions.  Perhaps, government and non-government actors are waiting for the next year World Water Day to make the same pledge again of ‘awareness pertaining to water conservation’. 

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