Dear Virat Kohli, I implore you to understand the value of water

India is facing one of the worst summers of severe water deprivation. Using running water for washing cars is just not right. Indeed, you, an icon, should teach us to conserve every drop.

 |  5-minute read |   22-06-2019
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I know you are a very busy, very important man, currently not in your home country and pursuing the onerous — for you carry the expectations of millions on your shoulders — the task of winning India's matches in the Cricket World Cup. I wish you (more) luck. And, of course, congrats on the big wins.

Back home — in case you missed it — there has been a minor irritant in your domestic affairs.

Your house helps apparently used a hose pipe and running drinking water to wash your many cars, for which you were reportedly fined an amount of Rs 500. I know this will not make much of a dent in your (good) fortunes. But I hope it gives you pause to think of why you were fined, why using running water for cars is so not happening, Why it is not just morally, ethically unacceptable, but almost criminal for the severe injustices and inequalities it speaks of in the basic right to clean drinking water.

I give you the benefit of doubt, Mr Kolhi, for how would you know of trifling domestic matters? Or be aware of the fact India is facing an unprecedented water crisis, given that India’s Jal Shakti Minister, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, also dismissed water shortages as media hypePerhaps we should tell Mr Shekhawat that it was not the media but the government’s Niti Aayog who said that ‘India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat.’ That it is the government itself that has issued drought advisories to six states; that whole villages have been evacuated, that residents have been fleeing their homes due to searing drought and crop failures.

More than half of India faces a severe drought.

sp14-virat-kohli_062119080200.jpgDear Virat, you're not the only one. we're all culpable. (Photo: Reuters)

The monsoon is delayed, severely deficient apparently by at least 45% — the country has so far received only 25.8 mm of rain, against the average 46.6 mm expected by June 12. Many reservoirs, not just in the far-flung hinterland, but in metros like Chennai are bone dry. In Delhi, the rain deficit is complete at 100%, and Haryana, where water was poured over and ran down the captain’s shiny cars, the deficiency is 92%.

The water situation is so critical that people have been killed over water — and farmers are killing themselves because of lack of water.

Forty-five farmers commit suicide every day in India. The suicides have become so frequent, they have become routine.

Oh, the horror, and the shame of it.

They are not just statistics, they are lives. The numbers speak of the abject misery of our people, the minority we tend to ignore because their reality hurts and is inconvenient to us. They need to be seared into our heart and conscience.

download_062119080456.jpgThe value of water is learnt mainly in its absence. (Photo: Reuters)

I bring to your attention also the misery of an even more marginalised community, as much a part of India: Its mute denizens — street animals dying of thirst, the livestock, the mainstay of the rural economy, shriveling to death, wildlife burnt alive in forest fires whose frequency and intensity has increased dramatically with delayed monsoons, and intense heat waves.

Dear Mr Kolhi, I am not your follower, but am well aware you are active on Twitter. Perhaps you have seen the distressing video clip of an old woman risking life and limb as she rappels down a well for the last drops of water for her family. It’s not an isolated incident, not at all, descending wells, as deep as 100 feet, is a daily routine for women and children in many parts from India. Or maybe you saw the other shocking clip of women running behind water tankers sprinkling water over a newly constructed road in Aurangabad district, to fill their empty buckets.

Mr Kolhi, the value of water is learnt in its absence.

The millennium city of Gurugram is one of the most water-stressed regions in the world.

The Niti Aayog warns that by 2020 — next year — there will be none. Many societies and residents pay exorbitant sums to water mafia and tankers to get their water. I know about this one. Living in one of the posh parts of Delhi, we paid for a tanker twice a week every summer. It didn’t matter that we had cars, wore designer clothes, that some were draped in diamonds — we fought bitterly over the precious thing we can’t live without — water. Wealth shields us from grim reality, and some of us are more equal than others. But the catastrophes of a poor environment, air pollution, filthy water, the lack of it, the consequences of climate breakdown, will spare none of us.

india-water-shortage_062119080518.jpgThis is no joke. This is real. (Photo: Reuters)

Mr Kolhi, you are not alone in this ignorance and apathy. I have fought with my relatives who hose down their cars, I have laid down the law with my help — and risked her quitting — who lets the water run while washing utensils.

Blessed with the luxury of running water, I am equally culpable.

But, Mr Kolhi, you are an idol, a model for millions.

I implore you to understand the value of water. Conserve water, harvest water. Spread the message. Set an example. Start by using (or asking your staff) buckets, if the cars must be washed. Harvest rainwater in your home, you may have millions following your lead.

Mr Kohli, your cricket is a source of pride for India — saving water could grant Indians life.

Also read: With no groundwater supply, Chennai faces nature's ire as a dry-spell this time

Writer

Prerna Bindra Prerna Bindra @prernabindra

Though a city-dweller, Prerna Singh Bindra is at home in the forests she is committed to protect. Her book, The Vanishing: India’s Wildlife Crisis, was released in June 2017.

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