Aqueous Affair

Aqueous Affair

The Indian Premiere League 9 scheduled in Maharashtra has got the cricket fever to the next level as the Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai flaunts all the glitz and glamour; the cheerful celebrities and ethereal beauties (the cheerleaders) swaying to the beat after their favorite team scores and the match score soars, so does the profit but at the same time the farmers in India and especially in Maharashtra resort  to committing suicide for not being able to find themselves an ample supply of water for their crops.

The reason why a cricket match has received extra public attention (so far so good for the media partners) is that the matches scheduled are to be played in the city where people are at daggers drawn even for non-potable water, let alone the crystal clear elixir which is necessary to keep the body hydrated and healthy.

After a formal complaint was lodged against the administration of the game, the court decided that since the petition was filed at fag-end, it was not possible to cancel the match. The division bench raised a very important question: “Cattle is dying due to scarcity of water. If this is your argument, then we are sorry. Are you saying that it is important to maintain cricket pitches and gardens when people are dying all over Maharashtra. There is an urgent need to conserve water and is not a question of IPL alone,” said the judge.

Water has become so scarce that people could not even properly celebrate the colourful event of Holi and called it ‘dry Holi‘. The stadium has been allocated 40 lakh litres of water per day whereas BCCI (Board Of Control For Cricket In India) maintained that the water used in the game is non-potable. “The state government should inform us if any policy has been formulated for supply of potable and non-potable water in Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan and other parts of Maharashtra,” added the High Court.

Let’s jump to the other side of the border where who could imagine that in Pakistan, people would have to drink bottled water, and in fact by paying for water at all? No, seriously. Well, a poet describes the current situation as:

“Do char din ke zulm nahi hain Yazid ke
Peetay hain log aj bhi pani, khareed ke”

(People are compelled to buy water for drinking as a result of atrocities).

Just 10 years earlier Pakistanis would enjoy an uninterrupted supply of water (in the metropolitan cities like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, etc.) but load-shedding, energy crisis and mismanagement led to the shortage of this vital liquid. Meanwhile the rural areas are now in a better shape than the cities and are eyed as a lucrative spot for fellow countrymen who otherwise have little place to park cars, hours of load-shedding of gas and electricity (and their shocking bills), no water to consume (for drinking and other purposes) and countless other problems.

This moment was seized by the ‘tanker mafia’ who would charge a hefty amount for a single tanker that only lasts 3 to 4 days. The area mainly affected (among others) was and still is D.H.A Karachi, where it is considered ironical that “they live near the sea, but no water to wee”.

Karachi Water and Sewerage Board is the body responsible for the fulfillment of water based needs of the Karachiites but it is unfortunate to see what politics and corruption have done to this institution. Same goes for the municipality. These moth-eaten departments do nothing but rot.

The alternative source which people have opted for is to set up a bore in the ground for water. For drinking purposes they buy bottled mineral water (whose health and nutritional value is still under question) provided by international brands or local RO plants (Reverse Osmosis plants) which have turned from rags to riches by only a small amount of investment. Over one-third of the water to be filtered gets wasted in the process and the bottled water guarantees no health certification as it is are not professionally treated nor administratively surveyed by the government for quality.

In 2012 the United Nations included access to internet as a basic human right (the same internet through which Arab Spring became lethal and ousted Hosni Mobarak in Egypt) but hey, the only thing everyone wants is a clean and fresh glass of water. However in 2014 we hear Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, CEO of Nestle, adding that “water is not a human right and should be privatised”. Fresh water makes up of only 0.97 percent of the total percentage of water there is and with lack of water treatment plants, filtration facilities and sewerage system how can we expect Mother Gaya (the Earth) to not deteriorate.

The Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, uses sea water to process and provide fresh water to citizens and the treated water makes its way for plantation and other purposes. American and British companies do invest in gold and diamond mines that spread over hectares in Africa and neighboring Arab continents, but they do not bother to provide clean drinking water for their African working class which is the biggest victim of malnutrition in the world.

Recently in the American city of Flint, Michigan (where taxpayer money is being wasted over a frivolous game of super-bowl) the water has been so contaminated that consumers have suffered permanent damage to their brains. Even emergency has been declared in Flint but that too has not been able to change the tea-colored water to its natural clear look, so a class action suit does not come as a surprise, since in America even posting unwanted photos of others on Facebook may land you in jail.

This is the same city where Nestle has been given tax subsidies and allocation of wells for creating (so called) jobs. It is now even harder for the people to find water underground as it has gone deeper. Karachi faces the same problems, yet the opportunists are making hay while the sun shines. The government should step in and implement reforms like in Saudi Arabia.

It is often said that the third world war will start off due to a shortage of water – no wonder one can buy a drink for 3 dollars but a water bottle at $5.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of or any organization with which he might be associated.

Muhammad Ali Jafri

Author: Muhammad Ali Jafri

The writer is a final year student of law at S.M. Law College. His areas of interest include law, history and governance and public policy.