More than 70% of the earth constitutes of water but only 1% of fresh water is accessible for human use. A lot of it is inaccessible because its trapped in snow caps and deep aquifers but a lot of it is unusable thanks to water contamination. Translation: No drinking water or drinking water and contracting waterborne diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, etc. and dying from those.
And around 4500 children around the world dying every day due to the lack of safe drinking water is no joke.
Speaking of jokes…
Who’s there? Population.
Population who? Population, that seems like it’s ever-exploding.
In India, a major natural water resource is the river Ganga and close to 400 million people live on its banks. These 400 million people contribute 6 million litres of highly polluted wastewater into the holy river. All of this not including the ‘religious offerings’ in the form of immersion of idols, flowers, human ashes and holy baths every day.
Secondly, farmers use fertilisers and insecticides to aid cultivation of food crops needed to feed the overwhelming population. 30% to 50% of crop yields are attributed to the use of fertilizers. When it rains, these fertilisers mix with rainwater, which flows down to the nearest water body. In the long-term, this affects our groundwater supply with nitrate and phosphorus.
Another problem associated with water and population is large-scale urbanization – because all those people living in cities generate tons and tons of sewage and garbage. Usually, sewage water is chemically treated and released into water bodies; but even then it contains microorganisms that cause waterborne diseases. And don’t think rural areas are off the hook, open defecation in rural India is another reason that leads to water contamination. Considering 769 million people lack proper sanitation, that’s 769 million people defecating in the open and actively contributing to water contamination.
Who’s there? Industries.
Industries who? Industries that dump all their shit into rivers.
Most industries – like automobiles, petroleum and (ironically) waste recycling – don’t have a proper waste management system and drain their waste into freshwater rivers that later merge with the sea. In developing countries, 70% of industrial waste is dumped untreated into usable water supplies. This water, containing harmful chemicals like sulfur, is not suitable for anything, let alone drinking.
There are some key players involved in this, one of which is the mining industry. Mining involves crushing rocks and extracting coal and other minerals from the ground. These minerals, when extracted in raw form, contain harmful chemicals. When mixed with water, it increases the toxicity double fold. Mining companies dump over 180 million tonnes of hazardous waste into rivers, lakes and oceans worldwide. Only a few companies have policies against dumping waste into rivers and oceans.
Who’s there? Climate Change.
Climate Change who? Climate changin’ up the water table.
Climate change, in terms of a rise in temperature, causes ice caps to melt into the sea, and all that fresh water stored in ice caps gets lost in the not-so-fresh salty sea water. The rise in sea levels also causes the salt water to enter freshwater lakes.
Since rainfall is becoming more inconsistent thanks to climate change, excessive rainfall is causing floods resulting in seawater and freshwater mixing up with solid waste and wastewater on land.
Water pollution can be traced back to the mismanagement of waste produced. The waste human activities generate is the leading contributor to water pollution. Our first move should be to find efficient and effective methods for waste disposal and treatment.
It’s time we give our water bodies some breathing space!