Harsh reality

  • 27/02/1999

T he best things in life don't come free. Today clean air and clean drinking water all come at a price. For a person living in a Delhi slum 30 litres of water a day is all one can expect. The sole source of water is either a municipal tanker or a tap shared by at least 50 other families. The queue for water is a daily affair.

For someone living in a posh Delhi colony the daily quest for water yields much more than 30 litres. Some residents actually enjoy more than 300 litres a day per person, depending on the area where they live. A filter takes care of their drinking water needs by weeding out harmful bacteria from the precious liquid. There are at least five to 15 taps per family depending on the size of the accommodation.

Water is also something we take for granted. Because we see it everywhere. It falls like manna from the heavens. It flows out from the bathroom faucet. It flows down the neighbourhood drain and every city normally has a river nearby. What we cannot see is the quality of water or the hardships faced by people where the water resource has been degraded.

When we buy a product we do not pause to consider that it may have been produced at a very high environmental cost. A shirt produced in a dyeing unit in south India may have contributed to the pollution of a river there. Effluents from a chemicals unit may have poisoned the groundwater in a city or a village and we are paying to do our bit to keep up that poisoning. We also take the quality of water for granted. Even though we know that thousands are forced to consume water laden with arsenic or fluoride. There is therefore no sense of panic. The general feeling is that bad drinking water is like a car accident. It can happen to the person next door but not to me. But is that true?

As a nation

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