Indian discourse focuses a lot on symbolism and tokenism. Nothing wrong in it, but the problem is, we generally equate tokenism with real action. A few years back the Prime Minister asked his colleagues and government servants to take up some austerity measures. We don’t know what happened to that request from the PM, likely it served the same fate as his other pleadings, requests, suggestions but we know for sure that Indian government wasted 100s of crores on schemes like NREGA.
Various self-proclaimed social activists and politicians advised us to play a dry holi in order to save water. The trend started up in Maharashtra which is said to have a famine this year and quickly spread up across the country. The people who brought up this idea are the same ones who ask us not to burn crackers during diwali, or light lamps and waste energy etc.
To an unsuspecting observer this might sound like a noble cause. But in reality it is totally stupid thing.
More than 89% of water consumption in India is in agriculture sector. Around 6% i used by industry and around 5% is used by humans for their personal consumption. Now take the example of holi. How much water are we truly saving ? You might argue that penny saved is penny earned and no matter how much we save, we are still saving some water. Agreed, but if you have ever played Holi, you would know that you spend more water in cleaning off the colors off your body than actually throwing it on one another. This dry holi thing is a fad that is created to gain positive publicity and has nothing to do with saving water in first place.
Before you catch the fly in the room, you should go after the elephant in the room. But you see, that is never likely to give your publicity nor it can be done in a short period of time. I am told that most political parties put banners asking people to play dry holi. Had these parties been serious about water consumption they would have improve water management in the city, acted against those who break pipelines and steal water etc. etc.
Let us do some basic arithmetic. One bucket can have around 8 liters of water. Population of Mumbai is 20 million. Say 1% of people play Holi with water. Which is around 2 lakh people. If everyone uses 5 buckets of water we are wasting around 80 lakh liters of water. Sounds too much ? We shall see.
How much chocolate do you think Mumbaikars consume everyday ? India’s chocolate consumption is 100gm per person per year, it is likely to be higher for urban population but if we do some simple math we see that Mumbaikars eat around 60 lakh grams or 6000 kgs of chocolate every day. Do you know how much water is used in making 1 KG of chocolate ? 24,000 liters. So by consuming chocolates Mumbaikar’s are responsible for consuming around 14 crore liters of water EVERY SINGLE DAY.
How about running a campaign saying this month I will not eat a single chocolate ? It is not sexy enough to get publicity because the idiots on the street do not understand the math behind the scene.
To be fair to the statistics, the water footprint is total water used right from the raw material to taking it on to your food plate. So when I say chocolate it includes water used to irrigate the cocoa plants, washing the beans , water used in producing Sugar (and irrigating Sugarcane) etc. When you sip a cup of tea, you are responsible for consuming 30 liters of water. But irrespective of that overall reduction in demand for these items will save a lot of water in long run. In any case it will save a lot of water compared to what we will save in Holi.
But it is about empathizing with the poor farmer… some will argue.
Farmers dont need and probably dont deserve our sympathy. Yes, our farmers are poor but they are not poor because of us or the government, they are poor by their own choice. Farmers vote for governments that give them free water, free electricity and loan waivers and subsidies. All this state given dole is funded from the taxes paid by the more productive parts of the society that is you and me.
All this state protect insulates the farmers from realities of the market which they would have otherwise faced. The scarcity of water we face is not because of you and me keeping the tap on while shaving but because of the farmer who steals electricity to pump out the ground water and leave the pump on because his does not have to spend a buck.
Agriculture always remains as the bottom of the pyramid for any economy. If you are a large country you must have a sound agricultural economy. Unfortunately our farmers are like patient on life support. If their condition has to improve they must be subjected to market conditions.