“Let’s do what is right, preserve water”, The Speaking Tree
Water is nectar, says the Satapata Brahman. The Mahanarayana Upanishad, further adds, ‘Lives of all beings are sustained by water. It is the abode of all devtas.’
Water is life. From our first nine months swimming in the mother’s womb to our ashes being immersed in a sacred river, from the essential nectar we drink, to that which makes up over half of our own bodies, water is an integral and essential part of our very existence.
Yet tragically, for too many people, instead of being a source of life, water, or lack of it, is a source of illness and death. More people die annually from lack of clean water than from all forms of violence combined. The UN predicts that by the year 2040, the world will have half the water it needs; for India this tragedy will happen by 2030.
Global water-related issues are deeper than a critically worsening shortage. Not only are we running out of water, but we’re simultaneously turning our limited water supply into poison. Every day, millions of tons of toxic effluents drain into the world’s water bodies.
The solutions are simpler than we realise, but they require all of us to be consciously engaged. Every choice we make of what to purchase, what to wear, and what to eat has a direct and powerful impact upon climate change, upon children dying of starvation, and upon the health and balance of the water, air and land of Mother Earth.
For example, the meat industry is, according to the UN, the single greatest contributor to climate change, and a major cause of the planet’s water shortage.
The production of one kilogram of meat takes about the amount of water used in bathing for one year. The production of a kilogram of chicken uses approximately four months’ worth of bathing water. In comparison, water used in producing one kilogram of wheat for bread or chapati is less than 1% of meat.
Additionally, almost everything we purchase is produced in a factory, and the industrial, toxic waste of far too many factories is dumped into the groundwater, into rivers, or spewed into the air. With our typical motto of ‘more, more, more, cheaper, cheaper, cheaper’ we’re pumping money into the very companies that are destroying our environment. Development should not be a licence for decadence or gluttony at the expense of others. We must remember that the first part of ‘economy’ is ‘eco’. We must bring the ‘eco’ back into our vision of a healthy economy.
By simply going vegetarian, consuming consciously, and eating organic wherever possible, we can have an enormous, positive impact on the preservation of our water, our planet and our own lives. That which our world requires today is very much what all spiritual traditions have been urging us to do for millennia: live simply, live consciously, share with others, love thy neighbour as thyself, practise non-violence and reap not the spoils of violence. By doing that which is right for the Earth, we’re doing that which is right for ourselves.
The writer is secretary-general, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh. Today is World Water Day.