Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Our 5 big mistakes!
We have always taken water for granted. Ask a child ‘Where does the water come from?’ and you will receive a quick answer ‘From the tap!’
Leaving the taps running while scrubbing the dishes, leaving the water flowing while washing clothes, taking a shower for half an hour, using more than one tank full of water to flush the toilet, not recycling waste water, not practicing rain water harvesting – we are guilty of it all!
An estimated 1/3rd of the world’s population live in countries that are severely water strained. And yet it is disheartening that those in access of adequate water misuse it. We have so perfected the art of misusing water resources that in the process we have created deserts, poisoned water bodies and drained ground water tables.
I live in Bangalore. This cosmopolitan city of 10 million is at times severely water strained during summer. And I witness the drilling of at least one bore well in my locality every week. Our search for water has led us to nearly 1500ft below the surface. And it seems we are all willing to dig deeper. But in this acclaimed city I do not see adequate drainage and recycling mechanisms. I do not see concern and vision in both the people and the government officials. It’s a pitiable scene out here.
In the city of Chennai, the official claim is that only 19 of the 28 water bodies can be restored. NASA’s imagery has revealed that Middle East’s water bodies are fast disappearing. We today can count the last remaining free flowing major rivers of Europe using just one hand. And yes we made one of the world’s largest lakes, the 68000sq km Aral Sea disappear!
Taking water for granted – our first mistake.
I hail from the coastal city of Mangalore – famous for its fishing industry. I grew up watching mammoth trawlers haul in tons of fish load, processing plants tinning the fish for export and ice factories making merry.
Fishing has been one of the oldest occupations of mankind. It was always a very lucrative and rewarding profession that drew more and more people towards it. Today this trend has breached the sustainability limit. Technological advancements have made us go into deeper waters for longer periods with larger, meaner trawlers. In fact we have so exploited these benefits that today the global fishing fleet is 2.5 times larger than what the oceans can sustain-ably support. As of this day 52% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited and 24% are over exploited! We have so exploited our coastlines that we are now towards those of poorer countries. Of course they won’t question our move or motive! We give them pittance via our aid programs. In the course of the last 60 years we have practically destroyed the fishing industry. We are now harvesting smaller younger fish thus damaging the breeding mechanisms.
The coup-de-grace of all this is that we are getting less food from the sea, damaging nature’s delicate balance and destroying a thousand year old industry. Remember the cod collapse in the Grand Banks in Canada – 40,000 people were suddenly unemployed!
Over fishing – our second mistake.
Throughout history man has traveled and explored the globe in his quest for various worldly possessions. And more often than not, man entered into this quest for a new land to deal with shortage of arable land back home (mostly destroyed by unscientific over agriculture). And as a result of these adventures, man discovered new continents, inhabited them and called them his new home.
The moment man started living in his new found home, he started observing his surroundings. At times he didn't like what he saw. Native plants appeared to be weeds and native animals / insects to be rodents. He remembered that back home he had a natural solution to problems like this. Thus he introduced new species of flora and fauna from his previous home here. And yes initially it did eat everything he didn't like, but slowly it started eating even what he liked! His solution turned into a problem. He was back to square one!
Rabbits were introduced in Australia as a source of food in farms. They were soon released into the wild by Europeans who missed their usual hunting adventures. The result – rabbits are officially called pests in Australia. When man discovered the islands of Mauritius, Fiji and Hawai’i he was confronted with an uncontrollable rat infestation. To counter this he introduced the Small Indian Mongoose. But soon, many other species of animals inhabiting these islands fell prey to the fast moving mongooses leaving them ‘locally extinct’. We have similarly introduced species in other corners of the world thus meddling with the delicate local ecological balance.
Invasive species – our third mistake.
The 21st century is heralded as an era of innovation, technological advancement and better lives. In our search for a better, healthier and peaceful life we have invented, utilized and misused numerous chemicals and toxins in the form of cleaning agents, pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, medicines etc. Today we are dependent on a range of chemicals which on the plus side offer a lot of benefits and comfort to our lives. But alarmingly most of these chemicals have severe damaging effects not just on the flora and fauna around us, but also on our health and those of our children.
Between the year 1930 and 2000, the production of man-made chemicals increased from 1 million tons to 400 million tons annually. The amount of pesticides sprayed on crops has increased 26 times in the last 50 years.
In the course of this lifetime we have polluted water bodies, poisoned the soil around us and intoxicated our own food! We have messed up badly and got it all wrong.
Chemicals, toxins and pollutants – our fourth mistake.
The most debated topic today, the question of our survival. Will be brace this storm?
The IPCC reports time and again have categorically put the blame of climate change on the selfish attitude and demeanor of mankind.
Global warming and climate change – our final mistake!