By Taha Tariq
Water conservation refers to the preservation, control, and development of water resources, including both surface and ground water, and prevention of pollution. However, these grand words remain words because of the chase of economic progress at all costs by the sprawling capitalist industry, which unethically exploits natural resources, as much as it exploits the proletariat.
Let’s look at the production of something familiar. Production of garments, in the denim industry — jeans, which is in extremely high demand in the free market of ours. Production of just one pair of jeans requires around 7,600L of water. In 2017, the denim market was worth $56 billion. Average price of jeans across the globe is around $56 (average of UAE individually, too). Which means, at least a billion pairs of jeans were produced. Which equals 7 trillion litres of water. Sounds like water is very easily available, isn’t it? Yet, according to the WHO, every 1 in 3 people lacks access to safe drinking water. Annual consumption of water in the denim industry is enough to support the 7 billion people of the world for many years to come.
Agrarian, shepherding and logging activities also result in destruction of water bodies, as in the Semi-Capitalist, barely industrialized society of J&K. From Lawrence (1896) we get to know that the open water area in Dal Lake back then measured 25.60 km². That fell to 11.70 km², at the time of the Survey of India, 1981. In a period of 86 years, the lake was halved. What were the reasons? Some can be attributed to maladministration, like land reclamation. But what else?
Several streams drain into the Dal Lake. Deforestation and overgrazing have been rampant around the Telbal Nallah. This causes the erosion of silt into the lake, which causes absorption of water, making the area muddy.
These streams are also surrounded by paddy fields. There, nitrogenous fertilizers are used. On average, 16 tonnes of phosphorus and 325 tonnes of nitrogen accumulate into the lake annually. This causes the water to become more fertile, and has led to a tremendous growth of macrophytes, phytoplanktons, zooplanktons, and bacteria in the lake.
Meanwhile, in the Astawhol Basin, increased pH value has proven detrimental to aquatic life.
Waste discharged from houseboats is not treated before discharge.
Hence, we see, deforestation, usage of nitrogenous fertilizers, discharge of untreated waste etc. have proven detrimental to water bodies, especially when combined with maladministration. Unrestricted pursuit of capital had resulted in destruction of nature, and suffering for the poor and downtrodden.
If we continue living in the unrestricted market that our society has become, we won’t be living for very long.