Reflecting on Water

My colleagues Romit, Babitha, and I recently spend a Saturday touring some of the lakes and various water bodies located within 100kms of Bangalore in southern India. This line easily could’ve kicked off a post about the water scarcity and pollution so deeply affecting India. Consider just the opening salvo of this article on Quartz published this past March:

“Centuries of mismanagement, political and institutional incompetence, indifference at central, state and municipal levels, a steadily increasing population that will reach an estimated 1.7 billion by 2050, a rapidly mushrooming middle class demanding an increasingly protein-rich diet that requires significantly more water to produce—together, these are leading the country towards disaster.”

Yikes. While there is undoubtedly cause for extreme concern and action with respect to the water scarcity so deeply impacting the lives of so many of the people and wildlife in this country, this piece will take a different track. It is a more optimistic reflection on an incredible experience.

Reservoirs and lakes were long the relied upon resources for domestic and agricultural water needs. However, owing largely to India’s rapid urbanisation and population growth, many of these resources were significantly, and negatively, impacted by the unsustainable approaches implemented to meet the needs of a growing country. Coupled with steadily declining rainfall levels as India entered the 21st century, the historically trusted water sources either began or continued to dwindle, if not disappear outright.

Bangalore and much of the south experienced extensive rainfall this year. Whether from a stalled monsoon, a divine response to distraught farmers’ pleas, an overwhelming reaffirmation of a changing global climate, or a combination thereof, Bangalore received more rain this year than the city has experienced in more than a century. This brought with it a flood (both literal and figurative) of challenges reflecting the infrastructural shortcomings endemic to many of India’s cities when it comes to addressing the effects of aberrational weather. That said, the positive effects cannot be ignored or overlooked.

Following the historic rains of 2017, we thought it would be a day well-spent to simply see for ourselves if any appreciable difference had been made by the months-long deluge. Romit took to Google Maps to plot out a route for us to see as many water bodies as we could. Following this we hired a car and set off to simply see what had happened. We were not disappointed.

With each stop, the water bodies seemed to get better and better. What had previously been a dry plain was now a meters-deep lake; where once people could drive a car across was now submerged; even fishing villages needed to move to higher ground on the banks of a lake, with just a trace of the roofs of previous huts poking out of the waters. Birds, fish, and insect life abounded, seemingly joining us in rejoicing the water’s return; the hills, trees, and brush around each source of water were resplendently verdant; and we were certainly not the only people who decided to take in the natural wonders. Life itself had returned to these areas, and it was a joyous occasion.

Conversations would inevitably turn to discussions around points of concern: plastic and other man-made waste was seemingly omnipresent, there is still too little water for too many people, and it’s unrealistic to hope for once-in-a-century rainfall to happen, well, more frequently. But we’d quickly change topics, or even just stop talking altogether, simply to take in the view and rejoice in the splendour of Mother Nature and the manner in which she can inspire optimism in her deeds.

Kevin Shane

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