24. The Economics of water degradation

The south Indian town of Tirupur is probably one of the richest towns in the world, producing tee shirts and other garments. The dyestuff from manufacturing soaked into the earth, so that all the water turned to the colour of dyes. Few of us are aware of how waste affects our precious, finite water resources. Water cleans and purifies. But water itself can be so polluted that it can become a pollutant or a poison instead of being the world’s best cleanser and drink.

The river passively accepts any garbage when people dump their daily waste into the river; the chemical composition of the water itself is changed. Animals, aquatic creatures, birds and people are harmed by drinking such water. Untreated sewage from cities enters many water bodies. Here micro organisms begin to decompose organic matter like vegetable and household waste. A lot of oxygen is consumed by micro organisms in this process. As oxygen level fall, many types of fish and other aquatic life die. As oxygen levels touch zero, the water becomes septic and foul smelling. Our cities need to recycle sewage before it leaches into rivers.

As in the case of industries like the leather industry, hazardous chemicals leach into the soil and become part of growing plants and crops. Imagine the effect of eating the food from these places. The sad part of this story is, that it is all invisible. When pure rain falls on garbage, it is dissolved and ground water and soil become poisoned.

The economics of water degradation are obvious. Cities that invest in proper recycling and waste control, create jobs in these areas. They also attract prosperous people to live there. Pollutants can also seep down and affect the ground water deposits. City sewage is treated correctly in India only in 10% of the cases. Industrial waste flowing into rivers, is what makes it so tough to clean holy rivers like Ganges. Agriculture chemicals – fertilizers and pesticides find their way through water into rivers and finally into our homes.

Efficient water management, composting and waste control, has to start in homes. Each of us makes a difference!



Dr. Rekha Shetty

Water Warrior