I am thankful to you for writing several articles dealing with the scarcity of water. In the comprehensive piece in the July 16-31, 2019 issue, you have pointed out that India is endowed with bountiful water resources including monsoons and rivers fed from melting snow of Himalayas, yet water table across India is rapidly coming down. As this article points out, the reason for this alarming trend is clearly to be seen in the capitalist orientation of the economy and the abdication of responsibility by the Indian State to protect the water resources.
Since ancient times, India has been known for indigenous water conservation systems, particularly in the areas prone to droughts. Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur districts in Tamilnadu and Madhubani and Darbhanga areas of Bihar among many areas of India were known for their water storage systems (consisting of thousands of tanks, pokhars and talabs, which were maintained by the rulers as their prime responsibility). The haphazard capitalist development has already led to drying up of most of these tanks.
The root of the problem lies in the fact that the Indian State is only concerned about fulfilling the agenda of the ruling capitalist class. All its actions are driven by the interest of the biggest monopolies. Maintaining water storage system does not yield any profits for the ruling class although it is crucial for the well-being of people. What helps the ruling class to make profits is rapid development of road and other infrastructure, residential and commercial towers catering to the well-to-do. In the process of such development, if the water is over-exploited or if ground water recharging is disrupted or areas get flooded with even a little bit of rain, then so be it.
For example, when metalled or concrete roads are made, there is no attention paid to the local topography. In many cases, roads interrupt the natural flow of rain water depriving storage tanks of water recharge. In metro cities, building of concrete roads and flyovers, paving more and more areas are seriously restricting how much water is absorbed to recharge the ground water, causing serious depletion of water table and flooding at the same time.
Governments are neglecting equitable water supply to people in cities and towns. They are following the prescriptions that those who are willing to pay can get any amount of water whereas ordinary working people have to make do with very little water and bear the inconvenience of waiting for tankers. Governments are in cahoots with most tanker suppliers, allowing them to steal municiple water or to illegally draw water from deep borewells. The inevitable result is that the water table is fast depleting and people are not getting any water from their traditional hand pumps and wells, making them dependent on tanker operators.
Government ministers are quick to make arial survey of areas affected by drought or floods. But it is only to show their crocodile’s tears. Taking any action to the problem of scarcity of water does not ever come on their agenda. Every year more and more floods and droughts take place, but the neglect of water resources continues. In this context, I congratulate MEL for highlighting the initiatives that people themselves are taking for conservation and maintenance of their water resources. It was inspiring to read the reports on the struggles of the people of Johad and Ramgad villages of Rajasthan in your August 1-15 issue.
Kailash Kumar, Patna