WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE … BUT NOT A DROP TO DRINK (“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

(Long Article)

Samaa recently wrote https://www.samaa.tv/news/2020/08/karachi-rain-water-weather-flooding-monsoon-update-storage-shortage-drought/, with very good suggestions for capturing rain water- which reminded me of my post of last year (https://dinshawavari.wordpress.com/2019/03/25/water-water-everywhere-but-not-a-drop-to-drink/).  This is an apt time to re-summarize and add on to these thoughts-

Weather patterns have changed for Pakistan, especially Karachi.  We are seeing colder winters, hotter summers … and heavier rains!  The last I remember of these types of rains were in the 1970s.

Karachi is facing severe monsoon rains for the first time in decades.  It’s a good thing too – it cleans up the city; there is more greenery; the temperature drops; and life is so much more pleasant; and the three major reservoirs supplying water to our City get filled.

Yet, with the rains upon us there is no drinking water in sight!  Like South Africa’s current problem, Pakistan is heading for a water crisis in the coming decade.

Rain is God’s gift to Earth and we are rebuffing this free resource!

The time to act is NOW … with no POLITICS or partisanship involved, through micro & macro means.  The provincial & federal governments cannot do this on their own- we as citizens have to help out too.

  1. Let’s go back to school – literally – and immediately start teaching water saving to all nursery, kindergarten and primary school children! (Long Term Goal)
  2. Water faucets can and should be changed to modern fittings which save water.  I saw a very interesting concept at https://www.alteredcompany.com/ .  Their water aerators/nozzles give a mist giving the same cleaning effects but at a fraction of the water wastage.  Why can’t our domestic companies follow suit and make it mandatory for all faucets to be of this type?
  3. Implement recycling “domestic” water for kitchen & clothes washing and swimming pool top ups;
  4. Implement “waste” water recycling (from WC’s and urinals) for gardens and exterior washings (can be used for washing cars, external patios, etc). 
  5. Implement drip irrigation for all gardens, plants & farms –Middle Eastern countries are proof that such systems work – and theoretically it should be even easier for us to do! 
  6. All watering for gardens & plants should be done at/after sunset;
  7. Domestic staff HAVE to be taught to conserve water (for that matter all our utilities);
  8. Individual water catchment systems need to be created – each building in our cities can easily have their own rainwater harvesting system – it doesn’t have to be expensive.  In our part of the world, Tamil Nadu leads the way!  Brazil, Singapore, Hawaii & Australia are other successful examples.  The cost and process of making a catchment system is not prohibitive or unreasonable.  It can even work effectively with a simple tarpaulin (refer http://www.oas.org/usde/publications/unit/oea59e/ch10.htm as an example).  (Here’s another source- https://outdoortroop.com/how-to-capture-and-store-enough-rainwater-for-your-cabin/).

On the macro side, our federal & provincial governments –

  1. Have to put aside “-1 sum” politics (in this case “-1” referring to provinces) in favour of the citizens of Pakistan.
  2. Like Hawaii, we need to create water catchment areas for rainwater in each province – NO RAIN WATER SHOULD BE WASTED.
  3. Mini DAMS is a must – starting from the north of Pakistan’s main rivers down south to the Arabian Sea – so that our fresh water does not drain into the sea and is instead used productively.  Politicians (not us citizens!) have concerns that water from such dams would not be used equitably – but if Pakistan & India’s Indus Water Treaty of 1960 can withstand the “test of time”, I’m sure our own provinces can also reach comprehensive, equitable & binding agreements.

Not a drop of fresh water in Pakistan should be allowed to flow into the Arabian Sea and instead equitably diverted East & West to all provinces as it flows southwards!

  • The current government’s tree-plantation drive is a correct first step – “growing trees take water from the soil and release it into the atmosphere. Tree leaves also act as interceptors, catching falling rain, which then evaporates causing rain precipitation elsewhere — a process known as evapo-transpiration […] strategically planting trees can bring rain to regions that need it most.” (https://forestsnews.cifor.org/10316/make-it-rain-planting-forests-to-help-drought-stricken-regions?fnl=en). 
  • Desalinization plants – this is a macro project and while some smaller units have been set up in Karachi, they are not being used.  Besides rainwater, ocean water is an absolutely FREE resource- why are we not using it?  We take loans to pay off other loans … and loans for building our arms … why can’t we take loans & grants for providing drinking water to our population?

There is a great need for our governments (plural!) collectively to lead the way in collecting & storing rainwater; promoting households & commercial buildings to create water catchments & reuse rainwater; and teach & implement water saving techniques to the population!

THE WATER IS FREE people … we just need to optimally capture this very very scarce resource and utilize it correctly in & for our Country.

“Mangroves: Custodians of the Coast” (A film by The Dawood Foundation)

March 11, 2020

I was invited by the British Council on a documentary on the ‘Mangroves of Sindh’, directed by Anam Abbas & sponsored by the Dawood Foundation- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE5V221BvUg, alongwith a group of school children.

One of the greatest advantages of the Mangrove ecosystem are their intricate roots- they slow water flow thus protecting shorelines during storms by absorbing & reducing wave energy and water velocity respectively.

Besides being a habitat for birds and sealife, mangroves act as a natural barrier for land erosion due to currents and wave velocities.

Unfortunately, villagers in Pakistan cut down these life-saving trees for the wood and their rich, mineral-based leaves, as a fuel source and income.

‘Mangroves of Sindh’ identifies a practical SOLUTION – create cheap, alternate fuel sources for villagers. 

To change any ‘evil’, one must change the system from its roots.  While the subsequent discussions asked school children to consider careers in the Civil Services, my thoughts are we should go even further back- to the school level.  You cannot change a system if people don’t identify the threat of devastation, which can more effectively be taught from primary levels.

Malaysia uses the Mangroves forests as an eco-tourist platform, especially during monsoon seasons.  My family took a “mangrove tour” over a decade ago- a mangrove boat ride, eagle feeding and a third attraction I don’t remember now.  The government gave fisherman small engines so that when fishing was banned, they could use small boats for such tourist visits, thus earning income in off-season.

Another fantastic video is ‘The Edge of Delta’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0SJrsc32U8 by Tariq A. Qaiser.

There are small changes within our System, which can be accomplished easily and with minimal cost to the government.  IUCN, British Council and individuals are doing what they can within their resources but isn’t it time our governments stepped up to help the environment and, by extension, our coastal villages and cities?

Our Ultimate MOTHER … Earth!

January 23, 2020

Courtesy- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmVLcj-XKnM&feature=emb_title

Several posts this week made me sit up and think critically … “what are we doing to our mother Earth!

Firstly, Conservation International’s “Nature is Speaking”, on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmVLcj-XKnM&feature=emb_title, impacted me the most – I implore you to see this short video but it’s MOST STRIKING excerpts are given below-

QUOTE

“             … I don’t really need people.  But people need me.  Yes, your future depends on me.

When I thrive, you thrive.  When I falter, you falter.  Or worse.

How you choose to live each day, whether you regard or disregard me, doesn’t really matter to me.

Your actions will determine your fate.  Not mine.  I am nature.  I will go on …”

UNQUOTE

                              CHILLING …yes!

Then, Denmark’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Rolf Holmboe, opined in https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/601152-who-s-afraid-of-renewables.  Again, an EYE-OPENER and again I request you to read this short and very interesting piece, the excerpts of which are –

QUOTE

  1. Globally performing economies are the ones transitioning fastest to renewable electricity production
  2. Renewable energy [can] form the baseload in producing electricity (more than 80 percent of electricity used in Denmark is now generated from renewables)
  3. The only way to make the energy sector viable in Pakistan is transitioning to renewable [which can] offer affordable prices to consumers

UNQUOTE

Pakistan is RICH in solar, wind & water sources – just misused!  There are but a few countries in the world that can boast these resources concurrently.  A few business houses like GUL AHMED have started wind turbines but more needs to be done by more people.

Then, there’s 17-year old Greta Thunberg’s message on climate change “Our House Is Still on Fire”https://nyti.ms/3auVR0m.

Here, we have young, teen activists bringing our doom to our attention – why can’t we, as adults, understand our actions are killing the very ‘hand that feeds us’Mother EarthWhy can’t we think of our future!?

Lastly, I had written about recycling & harvesting rain water https://dinshawavari.com/2019/08/08/and-the-rains-are-upon-us/ in August 2019. 

We have rain…we have water from our melting snows… It’s just a matter of harnessing natural sourcesto sustain … LIFE!

               Indeed, as Rolf concludes, “Where does Pakistan want to be?”