By Favas Sulaiman
Having a pivotal role in the existence of living/non-living beings in this cosmos, water is an indispensable requirement. As the former Vice President of the World Bank, Ismail Serageldin opined, “If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water – unless we change our approach to managing this precious and vital resource.” Water has become a bone of contention across the globe. The dispute over water from the Jordan River acted as a catalyst for the Six-Day War in 1967 between Israel and the Arabs. When Syria decided to construct a dam on the river, Israel assailed them with brutal raids, as they argued that they would be affected because of water scarcity. Israel has occupied major parts of Palestine in a transgressive manner because of the underground water resources in Palestine. Similarly, the Iraq-American war was not just a battle to conquer the Iraqi oil fields; it was also for controlling the abundant water resources in the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. Closer home, the Indus River treaty exists as an eternal (figuratively) conundrum between India and Pakistan. The construction of the Farakka Dam over the Ganga created antagonism between India and Bangladesh. While about seventy percent of the earth is occupied by water, only three percent of which can be considered as pure water.
In 2015, the World Economic Forum termed the water scarcity as the largest global risk. One third of the global population live under sever water scarcity at least a month every year and half a billion people throughout the year. The major reasons for this paucity are tremendous increase in world population, deforestation, uncontrollable pollution, drastic improvement in living standards, etc. This scarcity of water has altered the smooth functioning of environment: increase in the salinity in existing water resources, acceleration of nutrient pollution, loss of flood plains and wetlands. David Zetland writes that due to the lack of property rights, government regulations and subsidies in the water sector, the water crisis has crossed its highest level of danger. UNICEF JMP Report (2008) showcased the crucial manifestations of water crisis as below:
- Inadequate access to safe drinking water for about 885 million people
- Insufficient ingress to sanitationfor 2.5 billion people, which often leads to water pollution
- Groundwaterover-drafting (excessive use) leads to diminished agricultural yields
- Overuse and pollutionof water resources harm bio diversity
- Regional conflicts over scarce water resources sometimes result in warfare.
In addition, it is through waterborne diseases, which are caused by lack of hygiene and sanitation, a major percentage of world population die across the globe. In 1956, 900 people died and 2265 people suffered in Japan because of the ‘Minamata Disease’ which was spread by the fishes caught from the Minamata Bay. The fishes were contaminated because of mercury waste from chemical plants which released toxic chemicals into the bay.
The United Nations World Water Report in 2011 writes that the scarcity of water is often “due to mismanagement, corruption, lack of appropriate institutions, bureaucratic inertia and a shortage of investment in both human capacity and physical infrastructure.” An appropriate management of water consumption will certainly function as a stupendous remedy for water scarcity. This potential mismanagement of water had prompted the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) to say, “Do not waste water even if you are at a running stream.” ‘Active Organic Spring’, an Australian water company, has tagged their water bottles with the above mentioned quote (hadith) of the Prophet. The existing water resources are scant and sparse for the 40 percent of global population. In order to sustain the next generation, an effective management for water consumption must be invented and implemented.
Favas Sulaiman is a research intern at Madeenathunnoor College of Islamic Science, Calicut, Kerala. His areas of interest include Indian Muslims, Islamic discourse, Transnational Islam, subaltern studies, anthropology, etc. He could be reached at email@example.com
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