Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thirsty Throats and Water Woes of India

Some 15 years ago, as a small kid I saw my grandfather start a change. Moved by the plight of the heat stressed and water starved people of our native village, in the desert state of Rajasthan, he installed a water cooler from his pension money and hard earned savings. Closer, in the balcony of our home, he always kept a plate filled with water for the thirsty birds outside, never ever letting it go empty.

It is said that the things you see as a child are the ones that carve deep impressions on your mind eventually forming your character. It is true. Today, if there is one social issue that I feel for strongly, it isclean drinking water or the lack of it.
 

Lack of drinking water in villages and rural areas

In the course to development, one of the biggest hurdles that comes in the way of India is a rapidly worsening water crisis especially in the rural and tribal areas. The cruel blow of water shortage has struck a big chunk of the Indian population leaving a lot of villages in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and many other states reeling in pain. Rising population, a parched farm belt, indiscriminate use of water and natural calamities like drought have made water meager in some places and dirty in others. Either of these situations creates a crisis that is not only difficult to resolve but also aggravates with time.

To understand what I mean, walk in one of those drought-prone villages of India or better still, simply look at this visual.

Parched land and farmer in Village, India
(Image courtesy: ki-media.blogspot.com)

More than 700 million Indians do not have adequate sanitation,
let alone safe drinking water.

The consequences are there for all of us to see and ponder. Life for the villagers is a battle each day, plagued with a multitude of problems, significant amongst them being the lack of safe drinking water – a problem which threatens the very survival of the populace. It is disheartening to know that a glass of water which, for most of us reading this right now, is simply a few paces away is miles and miles away for many!

Women are left with no option but to trek long distances just to get that one bucket of water that would seemingly suffice their domestic needs for the day. And many times this is their only job, to collect water in the day and store it for their family! In Rajasthan, the desert state of India, a rural woman, on an average,  walks more than 14000 km a year just to fetch water. Slogging bare feet in the scorching heat over deserts traversing difficult terrains and jagged territories, these womenfolk paint nothing but a sorry picture. They live a life of utter drudgery yet make sure to hide this melancholy beneath a warm and welcoming smile. The harsh situation of water is best illustrated by a saying in Bundelkhand, a water stressed region in Uttar Pradesh,

Let the husband die but the earthen pot of water should not be broken.

Women facing water scarcity in villages of India - summer
(Image courtesy: http://wh2ojournal.com)

According to a U.N. report,
about 2.1 million children die every year, largely for lack of clean water.

The children aren't left behind either and get dragged into all this, often involuntarily. This directly impacts their pursuit to education and hampers their formative growth. They bunk their schools and classes, if there is one that is, and roam around with containers on their heads when all that they should be having are pencils in their hands and smiles on their faces.

This is how the entire vicious cycle starts with poverty -> lack of basic resources -> no time to learn -> unemployment and ends in poverty again. Trapped in this fold, a child is not only robbed of his childhood but is also effectively pushed into an uncertain future.

People in some regions are obligated to drink contaminated water from the same ponds and lakes that are being used by the animals and birds of the nearby forests and jungles. The epidemic of waterborne diseases are another curse of this crisis.

What the NGO’s are doing?

There are many NGO’s supporting this cause and one amongst them of which my mom is also a member is Narayan Seva Sansthan. Established in 1985, it is a non profit charitable organization rendering a heap of services for the needy, especially from the tribal belt. Amongst these services, is provision of water in the rural areas.

Here’s a look at the proposed solutions -
  • Installation of hand pumps and digging bore wells at proper places.
  • Researching more on water harvesting using various innovative techniques.
  • Construction of ponds and installation of water harvesting systems with the help of panchayats and other administrative bodies.
  • Collection of rain water that can prove to be of great respite to the natives when peak summer arrives before the monsoon.
They are trying to change the scenario. But change requires force and force requires people.

What can we do to reduce this crisis?


A lot! Remember that saying, where there is a will, there is a way? For starters, lets build ourselves through a strong resolve. A resolve of not wasting water.
  • Turn off those taps while not in use. Use the bathroom shower thoughtfully. Use the toilet flush only when necessary.
  • Fix your leaky taps.
  • Wash cars and bikes with a bucket of water and sponge instead of a hosepipe.
What's more, even the biggest hindi movie superstar Amitabh Bachchan has come forward and urged people to conserve water by playing a dry holi this year!
Amitabh bachchan tweet for dry holi

Remember, every drop counts. Who knows, the water you are saving today might be the source of life for someone tomorrow?

It’s true that the government and other administrative bodies need to do their part in implementing schemes and effecting solutions as well but let’s, for once, stop blaming them. Instead,
let’s just be a little more sensitive and rational and pledge to start the change with ‘I’ this time.

IndiBlogger has come up with an initiative called - IndiChange, Harnessing the collective power of blogging to fight evil – where we can join hands and show that we care. A day will come, all things we collected and treasured will be lost and passed onto someone else. Everything will shrivel to irrelevance one day. It will not matter what you owned and what you didn’t. What will matter are our deeds. So why not start sharing whatever God has given to us with the rest of humankind. After all, water is not a need nor even a demand, it is a basic human right, just like air! And if we are having the access to this right to life.. why not the others?

Even today whenever I get a chance to visit my native village, I make it a point to drink some water from my grandpa's water cooler. There is something in that water. It gives me positive energy. It gives me the inspiration to do my duty towards the betterment of the society.
It gives me, the strength to be the change...

I alone cannot change the world,
but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. 
~Mother Teresa

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This entry is my effort to IndiBlogger's campaign - ISB iDiya for IndiChange - with  http://www.isb.edu/idiya/ under the topic -

Blog about any social cause you are passionate about, and its potential solution. If there are any inspiring people or organizations working towards solving it, blog about them as well. INR 30000 goes towards an NGO of your choosing!


Would you like to share this article with your friends?

97 comments:

  1. Arti this is such an important and passionate post! Thank you for sharing this information and for your desire to help. I love the story of your grandfather that you began this post with, a powerful memory :)

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  2. Something we see on our tv's every day are appeals asking for donations towards the WaterAid charity and yet I still think many of us do not realise just what an impact the lack of clean water can have on a community.

    Your grandfather sounds like a wonderfully inspirational man who was ahead of his time.

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    1. You are right, Tracy. I think, it's got to do more with the lack of sensitivity towards the entire issue than awareness.

      My grandfather was indeed a man with a vision. He always worked for the betterment of the society in general. I am fortunate to have his memories with me today.

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  3. A very moving post, Arti, and certainly a problem that we all need to be not only aware of, but make what ever difference we can to change it! Thank you for what you have shared with us today.

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  4. This is a dreadful portrait you paint. And it makes us all aware that we take our fresh drinking water so much for granted.

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  5. Hi Arti,

    Great post and one I can relate to here.
    Living on the Island our only water supply, is from the sky, the rain.
    This summer has been dry and hot and we have bought two tanker loads of water and have another coming soon.
    All I know is you can't live without water and we really do need to conserve water.

    happy weekend
    Carolyn

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    1. Yes and what makes the situation even more worse is the fact these villagers are neck deep in poverty that it is impossible for them to pay for tankers, etc. even if they might wish to! The situation is sad indeed. I hope your area gets some rain soon so that the situation improves.

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  6. A very thought provoking post and hope we will see some wisdom prevail to save every drop of water! Best wishes for the contest Arti!

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  7. Water is so precious indeed, something we all need to value and conserve. I love your personal shaing, Arti, so moving and convincing

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  8. Arti, Great to read your post. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  9. Lovely blog... have added it to my bloglist... will be back for more!!!

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  10. Great post Arti. In cities where we have plentiful water, we do not understand its supreme value. In places of scarcity on the other hand, water is all about survival. Great topic and I hope there is some positive change.

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    1. Thanks, Richa. You said it! For some people, it's really all about survival and the sooner we can recognize this reality, the better for the country. Fingers crossed for some positive change.

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  11. Its so pathetic that everybody doesnt get even clean water to drink..I always follow all that you have advised to conserve water..

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  12. One thing I have learnt staying abroad is even if you don't need you must employ Rain water harvesting in every home. I kept wondering to see every house here with such systems even though its under the shadow of Alps

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    1. Nice thought, Kaustubh. India is still a developing nation but every village must have some method where they can store rain water and use it later. And we must chip in with all the monetary help that they need in order to put things in place. Having rain water harvesting under the Alps sounds surreal!

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  13. This is a wonderful post highlighting the importance of clean water and what others have to go through to access them. It is sad especially for the drought-prone villages. This is a perfectly timed post for World water Day on March 22. Great job, Arti!

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    1. Thanks Mary, my mom inspired me to go ahead and write this post.

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  14. That was a wonderful call for action Arti and much needed action at that. You are as inspirational a writer for causes as you are a vivid travel blogger.

    As an aside, your grandpa must have been a marvelous man and has had a lot to do with the sort of wonderful person you are. I still remember that Tulsi plant post of yours.

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    1. My grandpa was a man of principles and I will always try to treasure the values that he left behind for me. That Tulsi plant post is one of my all time favorites, I'm glad you like it and still remember it. Thank you for your kind words, CS :)

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  15. Wonderful post , Save water .Water is the most vital thing required to live.

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  16. Agreed - water is a most precious resource.

    I'm afraid I deleted your comment my mistake as it ended up in my spam filter and I've been receiving so many spam comments lately.

    I saw your comment as it was being deleted but didn't manage to read it... Sorry.

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  17. I agree with your post here. I have stayed in Pilani, Rajasthan for the last 4 years and people waste so much water in my hostel, it is really sad. I loved the idea of sticking out a bowl of water for the thirsty birds... Will start that from today.

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    1. I wonder how people can be so indifferent to the misery of others. I appreciate your pledge, Soumabha. That is inspirational, kudos!

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  18. Wonderful post.Summer already knocking at the door,it seems all the more relevant.very true we who still get water easily can not feel the torture these women face to get even a bucket of water.
    The scarcity of water has started hitting many cities too,specially during summers yet so often we find people wasting it even by simply leaving the tap open.
    Thanks for the wake-up call.

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    1. If we all could just close that tap when not needed, we would save SO much of water. As you rightly said, it's high time for waking up and taking some action before it gets too late!

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  19. This is such an important burning topic today nt only in villages but all over India. Thanks fr bringing it up. I am all fr a dry holi.. and saving water. All the best fr the contest.

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  20. I agree with Amitabh. Rain water harvesting is the only solution.

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  21. This is certainly a very serious situation,brought home by your well researched post.Yes we should all try at our own levels to conserve water.The step wells of Rajasthan were a clever way of doing this.

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    1. True, Induji. Efforts are required at a personal level, by every person. Only then
      can we hope to see the situation improve. The step wells were indeed such a great way to store water. Our kings were much far sighted than our ministers and people were very cooperative too!

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  22. Lovely post Arti, and very disturbing too. I keep reminding my kids about the importance because I have seen it in my own country. But what about these developed nations who have never experienced a power or water shortage? How can they understand leave alone explain to the next generation?

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    1. I can understand what you say, Mehroo. Valid questions, I agree. I am sure your kids do understand when you talk to them about it. Drought, floods and earthquakes are natural calamities and can strike any place. I think Auckland, in New Zealand, is facing its worst drought in 75 years!

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  23. I congratulate you Arti for writing on such an important issue.
    You have covered each and every point that we should follow to conserve water.
    I still remember your Post about Diwali where you mentioned your Grand Father.
    Here in Delhi we don't have any hand pumps also water comes only once in day at my place.
    I hope you get the Indiblogger prize so that charity of your choice could benefit from it :)

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    1. We can only imagine the situation in the villages around Delhi when
      so many of us live in the cities and yet complain of not getting a 24 hour uninterrupted water supply. Thanks for your wishes Abhishek, this is one contest where it is a win win situation. Whoever wins, the good point is that the society gets benefited after all and that makes me feel wonderful already. Why dont you put in a post too? :)

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  24. Hello, Arti.

      It is my joy to share your wonderful work.
      And sweet message charms my heart.

      I pray for your happiness and world peace.

    Have a good weekend. From Japan, ruma ❃

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  25. Thank you for the reminder. Many of us take it for granted. You turn on the faucet and out comes water. You are so right about childhood impressions making a big impact as an adult and you are carrying forward your grandfather's actions.

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  26. Water is so precious than we think. We're lucky to get enough water easily thanks to the techonology. I think that we can support other countries.

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    1. I am sure about that, cocomino. Japan being such a technologically advanced country, it surely must have a lot to offer but I think, our government needs to take the first step.

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  27. That's wonderful, Arti! Water shortages will be a big problem in the future... global warming is changing our weather.so it's almost a necessity now to conserve water!!
    Fantastic post, as always. All the best for the contest!!

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  28. Great effort. All the best.

    All of us, every individual on the planet, need to take the issue of water seriously.

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  29. What an honest and important post this is. So heartbreaking to know that millions are suffering because of a lack of a basic need for life. It affects all of us, in more ways than we realize. You are absolutely right. Action needs to be taken now, and this is something that everyone can do. Thank you for bringing attention to this crisis.

    I hope you are having a very good weekend.

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    1. I loved this line, Bella - It affects all of us, in more ways than we
      realize. How true! Thoughts like these is all that we need to bring about a positive change.

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  30. Hey Arti, I admired your effort you put in this post, and draw attention to BIMARU States and water shortage. By the way, I appreciate your strong memory. (Thumbs Up). And, I hope Amitabh's appeal would work, and many people play dry holi every year.

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  31. Thanks Arti for a lovely post. Deeply touched .
    Travel India

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  32. Very noble cause indeed....make your post help many thirsty villagers to quench their thrist this summer!

    Padmapriya T S
    http://aalayamakanden.blogspot.com

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  33. hi arti, a good post... Back in my hometown, my parents say there is no water underground and they are getting water through Water Tankers. This is despite the fact that my home is nearby a lake. I feel it is we who are responsible. We should have done better things to preserve water. The state of water availability in many parts of the country is very pathetic...

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    1. That is very sad to know, Karthick. The situation is getting worse day by day, everywhere. I wonder what's it going to be like, tomorrow? Lack of water is actually creating conflict like situations at so many places.

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  34. Wonderful post Arti, I agree that we should do a lot more for this issue then we are currently doing rather than relying on the government to bring about changes.

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  35. Yes Arti, water shortage is indeed a problem in many places in India. A good topic for raising social awareness.

    People like Amitabh Bachhan are close to the cause and understand sentiments of the underprivileged. he has appealed for a dry Holi. and there are people like Asa Ram Babpu who waste tanks upon tanks for a Pre holi bash. Amazing display of so called spirituality.

    All the best!

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    1. True! Things like pre / post holi bash should be best avoided at all levels, by everyone. We need to get down to the grass-root level now than ever before.

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  36. Hi! I felt there were many difficult things to break through.
    I hope something good will happen in a future.
    Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

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  37. I have lived in five states in India and for a month in Mumbai and there was not even a single place where I didn't face water problem. We waste it when we have it and repent later. Wish we learn and learn fast.

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    1. True, Saru. What's important is to learn that the water we save today might not only be the source of life for someone else tomorrow but also for us as and our near and dear ones as well.

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  38. Very vital issue. The way Bangalore is growing in terms of population there will be serious water shortage soon. Good point on rainwater harvesting.

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  39. The water situation is definitely concerning. We try to be cautious in our water use here.

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  40. This makes me want to weep Arti! You (and your fellow Indi bloggers) are such a positive force for change... and you are blogging for a wonderful cause, not just as a place to show your pictures (and I feel a little guilty, because that's what I do, just show my pictures).

    Your family has obviously done much for your country and obviously instilled in you the same caring attitude.

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    1. Please dont feel guilty, Sallie. Your gentle and caring soul reflects so beautifully in your kind comment. Simply send in your best wishes for our country and it's water starved regions, I am sure pure wishes like yours will add a lot of impetus to the entire movement. :-)

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  41. Well, good luck and best wishes to India. When we were in northern India, we were told to drink bottled water. However, we did rinse our mouth out with tap water after brushing our teeth.

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  42. Let the husband die but the earthen pot of water should not be broken

    Says everything the real condition of India and water problems

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  43. @ALL Thank you very much everyone for your kind comments, support and appreciations. I am sure, as socially responsible bloggers, our voices through our blogs and comments will bring about a change for the betterment of the society and humanity in general. Here's wishing, no one -- absolutely no one on this planet -- is forced to go thirsty this summer!

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  44. A very concerning issue brought to light by you, Arti. The Vidarbha region in Maharashtra is one which is regularly plagued by famines. The govt, instead of working on helping the farmers, provides the loans through PSU Banks to its cronies and continues to exploit the poor. The suicide rates in this region are very high as farmers cannot fend for themselves or their families.

    Water wastage is indeed a cardinal sin on our parts. If the government won't do something, at least we can do out bit.

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  45. This is such a sad situation..I hope something can be done about this problem for those live in rural areas.

    You are a blogger with great cause, and for that I salute you with great respect!

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  46. Yes, more than getting water, clean water only keeps away diseases. Hum... we can’t expect much when plain water itself a problem in many place. Of course stop wasting water will do much at crisis front. People need to realize that the problem is not somewhere and it might occur for us if monsoon skips a season.

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  47. So glad your grandpa has great foresight! It is sad that in this modern 21st century, there is still a lack of potable water.

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  48. Pains to see the impact of things when the basic amenities are not made available easily. Good luck with your initiative.

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  49. Very well written Arti. Your concern for the cause shows through every word. We on our part try to use water economically remembering all the time the millions who do not have it for their basi necessities.

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  50. Very important post considering the situation we have in India Arti.. We are falling short of drinking water. We all can make a difference. I was also thinking about Dry Holi for a change. We can adopt it this year and see the difference for ourselves.

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  51. This is a good post. The lack of clean water falls most heavily on women and children. Governments can find money to spend on tanks and sport stands - but people still die for the lack of a drink.

    It makes no sense and is a source of shame.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  52. A very timely post when we learn that parts of Maharashtra (Marthwada) is reeling under severe drought. I rte-dedicate myself for the noble cause.

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  53. you are one passionate, no non-sense blogger and I salute you for that! Everything you stated here are true and I wish I could do something too to help...while many are wasting precious drops of water, many are wishing they could have a drink or two...your grandfather is one noble man and I am sure you got from him the traits of a wonderful person...keep doing what you are doing and inspire many of us :)

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  54. very nice written. I appreciate and welcome your ideas...

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  55. Water has become a major problem in India. In south India, even big cities have shortage of water. We need to conserve water.

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  56. Yes, every blogger have a big responsibility to raise awareness of social issues around them, because they have access to technology and the have ability to write, to speak for the "invisible" voices.

    Great article Arti!

    Water is always be a big problem, even in my country, privatization springs for industry, give a lot of impact for local community to access the clean water.

    Water is not only a resource, it is a life source. We all share the responsibility to ensure a healthy, secure and sustainable water supply for our communities.

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  57. When we have water in plenty we never think of how precious it really is, only when we actually face such a situation ourselves we realize its importance. Thank you, Arti for this emotional and passionate post, we all must and should care about conserving water in our day to day lives. I do follow it diligently in my life too. I know turning off the leaky tap completely when not in use, using water for cleaning and other purposes adequately are some of the basic thing we all need to follow. These little things always help in the long run.

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  58. Arti, a really great post. It is true. What we see in the childhood leaves an impact for the rest of our lives. The facts that you have written are so heart wrenching..My granny would always yell when we were wasting water...you waste water and you waste lot of money too..so, we learnt to use water miserly. However, I am wasting a lot of water to shower after coming to the US. I keep thinking everyday to cut it down, but has become a weaknes.. your post is a good reminder for me now..

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  59. I know most of us take water for granted in Canada. I try to do my bit but it is the proverbial drop in the bucket. One way I am proud to help is my donating money every year through a company I am a part owner in that sells equipment for groundwater monitoring. We have partnered with a Canadian NGO that works in Liberia and Kenya and have installed and maintained numerous water wells which I know have made life easier for hundreds of villagers. It's not a lot but it is something.
    Loved your article - and what your grandfather did for the birds.

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  60. Wow, your blog is very beautiful and interesting. Kisses from Spain.

    http://redecoratelg.blogspot.com.es/

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  61. a very important issue to take notice sooner than ever.. admired your passionate writing.

    A Rat's Nibble - Lend Your Hands

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  62. Such an interesting post ... right down to the dry Holi. Thank you for speaking out - I'll make sure to share this via Twitter.

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  63. My Dear Arti, very sorry...
    Water is life, how to live so many people?
    The makers hope to find a way ...
    Everyone should make sure no water.
    Your grandfather, a very nice man!
    I send you a hug and lots of kisses

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  64. Happy easter and happy Holi daer Arti! I can't imagine a life without water and pray that every being may have enough of it - it's the source of life, after all!

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  65. This post is so meaningful, Arti. I often think how unfair things are just because of the places you are born into. Clean drinking water and adequate sanitation is a lifeline. I usually take safe water for granted and hold my breath to remember many parts of he world are experiencing sever water shortage.

    The challenge we face as a global citizen is enormous. To make a political agenda and to work as a whole under the dependable leadership would make the solution easier, but as you wrote, every drop counts. Many drops make a shower and according to Mother Teresa, each individual’s work is a drop in the ocean, but if we don’t do the work, then the ocean will be one drop less. I’m rooting for Indian people.

    Yoko

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  66. Thank you for your reminder, Arti.
    It's not to such serious extent but water supply crisis could happen any time anywhere. Thankfully I could get water at my fingertips now, however, to conserve Earth's finite resources is a thing I have to and can do.
    You had such a nice grandfather and I know you have good and respectable parents and family. No wonder you are such a nice and thoughtful lady!

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  67. Wow..topics that i cannot think people can blog on! i totally appreciate your work. so happy that i could stop by. Thank you for your true comments on my food blog. i really appreciate your patience for explaining your view. will make changes with mine and let you know too...will keep following you...cheers:)

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  68. I also appreciate your work on blog Arti... This is the right way to use blogging for good purpose...

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  69. Hello, Arti.

    Lovely and heartwarming your works..
    Please enjoy the color of spring.

    Thank you for your visit.
    I thank for your usual and hearty support.
    The prayer for all peace.

    Have a good weekend. From Japan, ruma❃

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  70. dear arti...you ave written about an issue close to my heart... as an infrastructure consultant and a enviromental planner, I have been working in upgradation of water and sanitation projects for a long time...and have been researching a lot..the facts and figures are horrendous...but its not what is there...its what we can do!!!!

    nice post!!

    http://www.myunfinishedlife.com

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  71. Very informative and powerful post, Arti. The last quote made me realize a lot of things too. Thanks a lot for sharing. Hope this water issue will be resolved really soon.

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  72. Change has to start from our own homes. You're right, we need to turn off those taps when brushing, use less water for shower etc.

    Having said that, the problems are of such a scale that the government needs to take appropriate action and not make irresponsible comments on droughts like that idiot politician from Maharashtra.

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  73. This is such a heartwarming and yet wrenching post Arti. Words of wisdom for us all. We had a very severe drought here last summer, and it was continuing into winter but for this week's rains of over 5 inches in a few days. We are messing up our world and I hope it is not too late to correct and heal. I hope you have a wonderful weekend Arti. Take care now.

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  74. It's so sad that water shortage lead children to poverty and vicious cycle starts. It's so misfortune for innocent children. I pray this situation is improved. Thank you for remembering to me.
    Have a nice weekend from Japan.

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  75. water shortage is acute in many states.Rain water harvesting is also a solution.But where are rains? Last year the rain were below normal. ..
    All the best Arti.

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  76. Arti thank you so much for your many comments in my absence. I am back in Canada and at our ranch with internet again only a few days ago. I seemed not to find the time or creativity for blogging at present or while I was at our winter home in the desert. It will take a while for me to work back into the social life of the internet having been away for 3 months. I think visits first to wonderful bloggers like you will soon spur my creativity again. Your subject on this blog is so important. So many people are so worried always about gas prices. When water is the most important thing for us to survive. With borders and countries one can no longer just pack up and move to a new area where there is a better supply of water. It's not fair for those left in these places where the water supplies are gone. So many take their supply of water for granted. I pray for the borders to open or the rains to come. With so much global weather changes happening, Countries that never had water problems may soon be packing water as well to survive. Many hugs and looking forward to your wonderful creativity inspiring blogs.

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  77. Rain water harvesting is the good method.Each and every states maitained in this rule.....


    vrry Nice Information

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  78. Water is indeed getting scare in all parts of the world and in April , it is a human's wealth and health protecting us from the heat wave. I do my best saving water with little what I can do at home. Good post !

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