Mumbai Monsoon – Of water cuts and conservation methods
It is that time of the year when the sky begins to cloud over. The grayness above contrasts with the colours beneath. The world seems painted in muted hues, an expectant restlessness glistening just under the surface. And under my skin. The Indian farmers may love a substantial amount of rain, but my Mumbaikars do not. They complain incessantly about the muck and the traffic jams that pan across every available space on the ground.
I am unsure if the subsequent paranoia is a result of the 26th July deluge in 2005 or if it is their irrational fear of falling ill. How else do you explain their eagerness to unlatch a bus/train window shut at the slightest drizzle, ventilation be damned?
Their aversion to water is such that they do not make an attempt to conserve it for the rest of the year. Public taps gush water unchecked and the water tanks drip all over the roads, leaving a trickling trial in their wake. The less than judicious use of water in households culminates into near drought-like situations where the government is forced to make a few water cuts.
The city is at the moment in a self-congratulatory mode because newspapers bring out daily reports of how Mumbai’s key seven lakes are overflowing more than their deemed capacity. Manisha Mhaiskar, additional municipal commissioner, said in an interview to Hindustan Times (dated August 9, 2012) that “there has been a steady rise in lake levels for the past 20 days… as of now, the water stock will last… till March 2013.”
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation strategy of repairing borewells and cleaning ring wells has been postponed until October, which is supposed to give them ample time to assess the situation. Therefore, instead of taking preemptive measures to prevent wastage of water, the BMC chooses to postpone them for a later date, only so that they can ‘assess the situation’.
We are far too callous with what should be our most prized commodity. If our own municipality has such a lackadaisical attitude towards water conservation, what can one say of the citizens? I have frequently had to check our domestic help every time she left the tap running for a very long period of time.
The municipality and Aamir Khan will exhort us to follow a set of guidelines which will ensure effective water conservation. Most notably, we are asked to build a catchment area somewhere in the house and build a pipe which will lead to said catchment area. Thus, when it rains, the water travels through the pipe and into the demarcated area for the water.
A lot of citizens may not do it due to possible economic feasibility (or lack of it). No worries. I, myself, have devised a set of guidelines that Mumbaikars can diligently follow and avoid heartburn. And also smelling like the gaseous remains of a potato and soya bean meal.
- Bathe once a day: I say this in all seriousness. No, really. Some of us like to bathe three times a day. I admire the loftiness of such individuals. However, deodorants and eau de toilettes are effective (historically used and approved) methods. A worthy investment.
- Do NOT keep tap running as you wash the dishes: I have repeated it again and again to my help. And then again. But to no avail. It was like talking to a brick wall. Or breaking your head against one. Either way, you are deemed insane or self-destructive. My advice? Wash the dishes yourself.
- Stop and screw shut all the public taps: Weird glances notwithstanding, you should. I personally prefer to holler at the people who let the taps gush. It shames them into either action or retreat. Both very public outcomes bring tremendous satisfaction.
- Utilise water already used: The foamy remnants from a bucket can be used to scrub corners of the toilet. Water from the water bottles can be used to… err… water the plants. But anything is better than throwing it out of the window. Especially when it is from the first floor. Especially when the person standing beneath aforementioned window gets no reaction time. Which makes aforesaid person angry. Very angry.
- Alert required authorities in case of leakage: My mother, being an enlightened citizen and an overall Good Samaritan makes it a point to alert station masters on platforms in case there is any tap on the railway tracks that is leaking. The pot-bellied gentlemen have to be shaken out of their stupor, but once goaded, are reasonably obliging.
The municipal corporation has enough brickbats flying at them from all quarters. Their performance has been far below satisfactory, but if we leave the onus of water conservation upon them, then we are looking at more severe water cuts in the event that the rainfall remains scanty. It is time for Mumbaikars to do what they are known to do best – take initiative. And when few turn to a little more than few, Mumbaikars will do yet another thing they do best – join in the movement in a sort of herd mentality. Which might just work out for the greater good this time, since actions speak louder than mere rallying.
SOPHIA COLLEGE FOR WOMEN