“As soon as the earth's crust cooled enough, the rains began to fall… They fell continuously, day and night, days passing into months, into years, into centuries.” - Rachel Carson, in The Sea Around Us (1951).
Thus was born water, the basic building block of all life on Earth. No wonder that the Krishna-devotee and one of the navaratnas in Emperor Akbar's court, the sufi Rahim was moved to write this doha: “Rahiman paani raakhiyee, bin paani sab soon,” which roughly translates as “without water, there's no life.” Our human lives begin in the nourishing amniotic fluid in the womb and end with a touch of water on dying lips. To the Indigenous Australians, one of the oldest surviving races, water “is the physical manifestation of the process of creation itself, of the ancestors, and as such it is a sacred and protected element.” –
THE UN WORLD WATER DEVELOPMENT REPORT.
It is the most plentiful natural resource on the planet; covering over two-thirds of the earth. However, 97 percent is in the oceans, while only 3 percent is fresh water. Of the freshwater, only one percent is easily accessible as ground or surface water, the remains are stored in depleting glaciers and icecaps. Moreover, freshwater is not evenly distributed across land surfaces, and there are a number of heavily populated countries located in arid lands where fresh water is scarce.
Water also controls the temperature of the planet and cycles essential nutrients through the land, air, and all living forms working as a global thermostat. The flow of water through the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere is called the hydrologic, or water cycle.
This role of temperature regulator is performed by water in living beings also. Our bodies are 65% composed of water – ranging from a high of 95.5% in saliva to 10% in teeth! In medical terms a reasonably healthy individual in ideal conditions - that is, not in the heat or cold and not exerting - can probably live for about 3 to 5 days without any water. As compared to this, most doctors agree that healthy humans can go up to eight weeks without food. We lose water through sweat, urine, feces and even breathing. This water needs to be replaced in order for our organs to continue to work properly. In severe heat, an adult can lose as much as 1.5 liters of water through sweat alone. The main risk without water in is that body temperature will continue to rise leading to heat stroke. Clean water is also the cheapest and single most important medicine in the world.
The politics of water will turn vicious as the world heads for 'water bankruptcy', with corporates identifying it as a hot ticket for investment, overtaking even oil. Pramoedya Ananta Toer so incandescently captures this spirit of predatory capital in his classic exposé of colonialism in Child of All Nations (1980): “…what people call capital is more than just money…Everything must be turned into a source of profit. And in the towns of Europe and America, from every mouthful of water. Maybe in the future they will take profits too from each cubic inch of air we breathe.”
It is in such a historical context that an effort, like Madhuraj's gains abiding relevance, and Mathrubhumi took up the initiative to publish it. Like other sensitive people, he too has been influenced by the saga of struggle waged by the valiant indigenous peoples, supported by political parties also, of Plachimada against turbo capitalism in the form of cola. My good friend, Maude Barlow, who has written the preface was gracious enough to attend the World Water Conference held there in 2004.
I commend this labour of love to all caring souls, with these lines by Namdeo Dhasal, translated from Marathi -Paani- by Dilip Chitre, highlighting the 'exclusionist' nature of water regime in our country:
“The fingers of thirst wither away while probing for edible beans
And man seeks compassion in a devastated body
The earth's mouth opens wide as a begging bowl
What a marvellous sight it is to watch your secular regimes wagging their tail!
You will draw water upstream
And we downstream
Bravo! Bravo! How you teach chaturvarnya even to the water in your sanctified style!”
M P Veerendra Kumar (Member of Parliament)
Camp: Tumkur, Karnataka March 12, 2009