The Bombay High Court has come down heavily on the BCCI for organising the Indian Premier League at a time when Maharashtra is battling the worst drought in decades. Though the court refused to grant a stay on the opening match of the league to be played in Mumbai on Saturday, it came down heavily on organisers for conducting the matches, which would use up to 6 million litres of water for conducting 20 matches at three venues — Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur.
However, while cricket and its cash-rich league are admittedly large scale users of precious water, they are hardly the biggest or the first culprits in Maharashtra. Here's a list of activities that waste as much, if not more, water than a cricket match.
Swimming pools are especially popular in the summer months, as the rising mercury levels coupled with summer vacations in schools and colleges mean several youngsters choose to beat the heat with the cool pool water. However, in doing so, they are using up several gallons of the one precious commodity that is in such shortage this year.
Several municipal corporations in the state have already been asked to stop supplying water to civic-run swimming pools will be shut through the duration of the summer, but the bigger culprits would be the private pools, many of which have mushroomed in large housing societies and clubs. A regulation banning the supply of large amounts of water to all swimming pools in the state until the drought situation improves would be a good way of ensuring we make the most of the limited water available.
Maharashtra is among the country’s most urbanised states, with Mumbai and Pune and their respective suburbs witnessing almost non-stop expansion. With more urbanisation comes rampant construction activity as the cities look to expand vertically. And given the large amounts of water which are utilised at construction sites, the state could consider asking for a stay on construction activities until the situation improves. It would also do well to consider the high court only recently imposed a stay on construction activity citing violations of municipal solid waste norms, so it might do so again, this time for a far more serious issue.
The IPL utilises several litres of water just to keep the grounds in good shape, but the state currently has several water-based amusement parks which use up much more. At Mumbai’s Water Kingdom or the Adlabs Imagica on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, there are a variety of rides and games people can participate in. The latter, for instance, features 12 water-based attractions. Others have ice skating rinks and adventure rides. And while the organisers would insist the water is recycled, just like the IPL officials insisted their water wasn’t potable, the fact remains that every drop of water saved could be put to better use in the parched districts of Marathwada.
Until as recently as last month, a burst pipeline in the heart of Mumbai was shooting up precious drinking water, and though litres and litres were going down the drain every second, it took the civic body almost two months to fix it. The real tragedy, however, is that this wasn’t the first such incident to take place in the state nor will it be the last. The civic officials’ apathy towards its leaking pipelines and the tardiness with which they go about remedying this means that over 650 million litres of water are lost every day due to leaking pipes. To put this in perspective, it’s the total daily water usage of Pune that’s just been going down the drain.
It’s obvious where the fault lies. Before going after the IPL, the courts should crack the whip on errant civic officials and make them answerable for what is within their control.
But most importantly, we ourselves need to change our attitudes towards water wastage. Will we give up the comfort of the shower and use a bucket for our bathing needs? Do we get that leaking tap fixed immediately or do we wait for the weekend? Do we run the washing machine only when we have a full load or do we get use it everyday nevertheless? Do we have any form of rainwater harvesting in our buildings/societies/gardens?
Until we can answer yes for all these questions, we don’t really have the right to point the fingers at others and what steps the government, or municipal officials, or even the IPL needs to take. While nobody among us would be guilty of the kind of large scale water wastage we’ve been talking about, it’s still death by thousand cuts. A steady trickle of water going down the drain would ultimately result in large scale wastage if not checked in time. And that really is the easiest one to remedy.