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Chennai floods: Wake up call for water bodies revival

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source: daily.indianroots.com

The disastrous floods in Chennai is a reminder to people of the havoc that may be caused as a result of diminishing water bodies due to the onslaught of a growing city with unplanned development.

Wetlands consisting of lakes, ponds, tanks etc. are rich biodiversity storehouses, which are gradually being wiped out to make way for the numerous constructions. While lakes make up barely 3% of the global landscape, they effectively bury more carbon than all the oceans in the world combined.

India has thousands of such water bodies, which were given immense importance by the traditional communities. However the developmental boom has shifted the focus from such less apparent resources to ones which generate more direct revenue.

The water bodies in Meerut are undergoing qualitative analysis by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). The mapping and study of just 120 water bodies in a single district can demonstrate how unsustainable development can threaten not only the present environmental condition but also become a cause for possible economic downfall in the future.

Dying traditional water bodies across the country should be given prime importance and revival must be carried out immediately through well-planned strategies involving multi-stakeholders.

Studies and surveys should also be carried out to understand why these water bodies are being neglected in the first place. A mass behavioral change is essential for a good conservation plan.

Awareness programmes need to be initiated to educate common people on the virtues of such water bodies and the negative effects that might evolve from water pollution. If the damaging effects of pollution on the people’s health are properly intimated to them, the masses can be mobilized to protect their own resources.

It is the PILs filed against the negative health effects of polluted water bodies that have been instrumental in bringing about most cases of lake revival. Community participation is mandatory for drastic changes in this field which can be sustained over time.

Since these water bodies can often bring in more services than the same land area, proper evaluation must be made as to the price of such a water body, and adequate compensation should be made while carrying out any projects on them. Assigning a ‘price’ could increase the pressure on different bodies to work towards their preservation and protection.

A proper water monitoring system would be able to cut down a large number of pollutants. Binding laws would reduce the chances of illegal developers taking over any such water bodies.

The water bodies need to be regularly checked for their quality. This work can be carried out quite easily by local institutions. The area and quality of the water bodies undergo seasonal changes which must be studied and the results made available to the common public, so they can take up steps for their betterment.

Compared to the funds allocated for projects such as irrigation development, the financial assistance required for public surveys, water quality analysis, GIS mapping or the development of information systems would be far less, making this a feasible initiative.

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Water Pollution Threatens Nearly All Globally Agreed Development Goals

This study was a huge wake-up call to us about the quality of water worldwide

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Water Pollution, Globally, Development
FILE - A fisherman dangles his line to catch fish in polluted water off Beirut's seaside Corniche, Lebanon, June 23, 2019. VOA

Water pollution threatens nearly all the globally agreed development goals to end environmental destruction, poverty and suffering by 2030, economists warned in a report Tuesday, citing the largest-ever database on the world’s water quality.

The World Bank report warned of the ripple effects of water pollution on the health, economies, education and agriculture of rich and poor countries alike.

“This study was a huge wake-up call to us about the quality of water worldwide,” said Richard Damania, World Bank economist and one of the study’s authors.

“The world tends to focus on water quantity such as floods and droughts, but this report focuses on the more invisible threats — the effects of pollutants impacting global water quality,” Damania said.

Water Pollution, Globally, Development
Water pollution threatens nearly all the globally agreed development goals to end environmental destruction, poverty and suffering by 2030, economists warned. Pixabay

The 193 United Nations member states agreed on Sept. 25, 2015, to a lofty 15-year agenda of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 169 targets aimed at helping everyone live healthier, more prosperous lives on a cleaner planet.

SDG 6 refers to clean water and sanitation for all, but the U.N. World Water Development Report found about three out of 10 people — 2.1 billion — did not have access to safely managed drinking water at home in 2015.

In sub-Saharan Africa, coverage was only 25 percent.

“Chemical contamination such as arsenic in Bangladesh, mercury in Maputo and fluoride in parts of Kenya are major concerns,” said Neil Jeffery, the CEO of water rights group Water Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP).

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“Clean water brings dignity. Entire communities are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, with a lack of basic water and sanitation impacting health, school attendance and livelihoods,” Jeffery told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Information key

The World Bank report used satellite data and artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze nitrogen, salt and oxygen levels — water health markers — of water globally.

“Pollution affects countries both rich and poor. It is just the cocktails of chemicals that change,” Damania said. “Plastics and pharmaceutical contaminants are problems everywhere.”

Water Pollution, Globally, Development
The World Bank report warned of the ripple effects of water pollution on the health, economies, education and agriculture of rich and poor countries alike. Pixabay

Ripple effects of consuming pollutants include childhood stunting, infant mortality, lowered economic activity and food production.

“Information is the first step,” said Damania, in league with water rights groups.

By way of example, Jeffery cited that “informed consumers can make decisions to keep rubbish out of waterways.”

And they can pressure corporations and government “to take the challenge seriously,” said Javier Mateo-Sagasta, senior researcher at the Water Management Institute (WMI).

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The report said that the scale of the problem meant there is “no silver bullet,” but Damania remains optimistic that “social movements, political and corporate will and new technologies” could still save the threatened resource. (VOA)