Water scarcity and its cause according to SSB.
By: Serguei Badaev
Document date: 15 August 2003
According to the press release of the Worldwatch Institute (September 23, 1999) "As world population approaches 6 billion on October 12, water tables are falling on every continent, major rivers are drained dry before they reach the sea and millions of people lack enough water to satisfy basic needs." In India the situation is very serious due to its vast arid areas and increasing population. Scarcity of water is a part of a global environmental crisis and is of utmost importance for the humanity survival.
These words, taken from The Financial Express of April 27, 2001, concerns India: "According to the ministry of water resources, ground water level in 16 states dipped to more than four metres in the period 1981-2000". http://www.financialexpress.com/fe20010427/an1.html
According to a BBC correspondent "Water shortages are likely to emerge as the major environmental challenge for India in the new millennium." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/732302.stm
Sathya Sai Baba (SSB) has proclaimed himself a Supreme Incarnation of God (Purna Avatar) who is omniscient (all-knowing) and has come to save humanity. It is quite interesting to see what his explanation of the water deficit problem is. The following are his words from his discourse of 6th May 2000.
"Why does water scarcity arise? When there is a decline in Sathya (Truth) and
Dharma (Righteousness), the level of water in the earth also declines. As compassion and love have diminished in human heart, water has become scarce. This problem is not due divine fury as some people may imagine. It is because of the rise in evil qualities in man. If people strictly adhere to the path of truth and righteousness, there will never be water scarcity." (Sanathana Sarathi, v.43, June 2000, #6, p.165)
Applying this to the real situation in India and especially in Andhra Pradesh, where SSB lives, it sounds as an inexcusable oversimplification. Below are some causes which are mentioned by specialists in various publications. It is clear that water scarcity is a complex problem and simplistic approaches to solve it cannot be effective.
1) Population growth followed by increased water consumption
"In India…the pumping of underground water is now estimated to be double the rate of aquifer recharge from rainfall. The International Water Management Institute, the world's premier water research group, estimates that India's grain harvest could be reduced by up to one fourth as a result of aquifer depletion. In a country adding 18 million people per year, this is not good news." (Lester R. Brown and Brian Halweil POPULATIONS OUTRUNNING WATER SUPPLY AS WORLD HITS 6 BILLION www.worldwatch.org/alerts/990923.html)
2) Over exploitation of the ground water
"One of the biggest hurdles in addressing the problems related to ground water shortage is that replenishment of groundwater and augmentation of water supplies is primarily the state government’s responsibility. Ground water exploitation has gone unchecked over the last decade which has now forced the Central Ground Water Authority to advise the state governments to take measures to check over-exploitation of ground water". http://www.financialexpress.com/fe20010427/an1.html
3) Disputes and irregularities in sharing water of the rivers going through neighbouring states
"The last few months have witnessed highly tense relations between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the release of water for saving the paddy crops in the Cauvery delta in the latter. … Such problems are not confined to these two States alone. There are problems between Andhra Pradesh and Karanataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the like. It is not unusual to see the occurrence of severe drought in some parts of the country, while certain other parts are ravaged by floods.
It is time the policy-makers think of a permanent solution to this problem which has become as perennial as the Himalayan rivers. The only tangible solution lies in creating the required infrastructure to divert the surplus waters available in one part of the country to the deficit areas."( THE HINDU, Tuesday, Oct 08, 2002, see also THE HINDU, Sunday, Oct 13, 2002).
4) Urbanisation and industrialisation
"In addition to population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation also expand the demand for water. As developing country villagers, traditionally reliant on the village well, move to urban high-rise apartment buildings with indoor plumbing, their residential water use can easily triple. Industrialisation takes even more water than urbanisation."
"Some 70 per cent of the water consumed worldwide, including both that diverted from rivers and that pumped from underground, is used for irrigation, while some 20 per cent is used by industry, and 10 per cent for residential purposes. In the increasingly intense competition for water among sectors, agriculture almost always loses. The 1,000 tons of water used in India to produce one ton of wheat worth perhaps $200 (Rs. 10,000) can also be used to expand industrial output by $10,000 (Rs. 5,00,000), or 50 times as much. This ratio helps explain why, in the American West, the sale of irrigation water rights by farmers to cities is an almost daily occurrence." (THE HINDU, Sunday, August 05, 2001)
5) Increasing water pollution
"The most common method of disposal of solid municipal waste in India is by deposition in landfills. In order to minimise the impact of such landfills on groundwater quality and the environment in general it is necessary to properly design and build these facilities to prevent pollution and put in place strict management controls to ensure they are operated correctly. Unfortunately this is rarely done as few towns and industries in the country make the necessary effort to ensure that their solid waste is treated or disposed of in a proper manner.
The principal threat to groundwater comes from inadequately controlled landfills where leachate generated from the fill material is allowed to escape to the surrounding and underlying ground. The chemical composition of such leachate depends on the nature and age of the landfill and the leaching rate. Most leachates emanating from municipal solid wastes are not only high in organic content but also contain some toxic material. Leachates from solid wastes of industrial origin, however, often contain a much higher proportion of toxic constituents, such as metals and organic pollutants." (http://wrmin.nic.in/problems/pb_faced.htm)
Here are mentioned a few things that are essential in water shortage problems in India. Among others are deforestation, and lack of rainfall conservation activity (see e.g. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/732464.stm) etc. Quite often simple and effective solutions are overlooked and very expensive irrigation projects are implemented instead.
"They have continued to overlook simple and effective methods like a series of small water storage tanks, the recharging of village wells whose water percolates the ground and replenishes underground reservoirs for drinking and irrigation purposes. Over the years, however, traditional storage tanks and ponds have silted and dried up. In Andhra Pradesh alone, a majority of the 52,000 water tanks have more or less silted up." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/732302.stm)
From the examples above it is clear that, though the water scarcity problem has an ethical dimension, it is very complicated and includes interrelated economic, sociological, geographical and political aspects.
Going back to SSB, one can notice a strange thing. He has proclaimed that he has come to restore Sathya and Dharma (at least in India, as he promised he wouldn't travel abroad until everything would be okay in India). Those who believe in his words and accept that water scarcity is due to decline of Sathya and Dharma have to assume that his mission has hardly had any progress in India, far less in the world.