Earth is predominantly water. In the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna says, “Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego constitute My separated material energies.” (7.4) Trees are 75% water, an apple is 80% water and human body is 70% water. Most of us believe that there is an infinite supply of water on earth whereas the earth’s water circulation is fixed and works in a closed loop. The total water on earth is 1.1 quadrillion acre feet; 97% of this is the saltwater in oceans and seas. Fresh water is 2.5% (28 trillion acre feet) of which 69.5% exists as glaciers, snow and permafrost. Another 30.1 % is underground in deep aquifers and only 0.4% is available in the form of lakes, rivers, soil moisture, air humidity, marshes and wetlands. Thus, there is only 7 billion acre feet of water, ie 1.4 million litres per person per year to drink and perform their daily chores. Moreover, rivers are drying up, underground reservoirs are becoming deeper and inaccessible.
Is the earth’s water cycle faltering?
No, our water demands have escalated rapidly, inconsiderate of the consequences and responsibilities connected to our actions. Krishna says, “That happiness which is derived from contact of the senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but poison at the end is said to be of the nature of passion.” (18.38) The Bhagavata Purana says, “The characteristics of water are exhibited by its moistening other substances, coagulating various mixtures, causing satisfaction, maintaining life, softening things, driving away heat, incessantly supplying itself to reservoirs of water, and refreshing by slaking thirst.” (3.26.43) The global water situation is scary. Every year 1.8 million children die of water-borne diseases; 30,000 deaths happen due to unsafe water and diarrhea. More than 783 million people do not have access to clean water and this will rise to 5.3 billion by 2025.
The UNDP report 2018 says, “Upscaling nature-based solutions (NBS) will be central to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Sustainable water security will not be achieved through business as usual approaches. NBS works with nature instead of against it and thereby provides an essential means to move beyond business as usual approaches to escalate social, economic and hydrogeological efficiency gains in water resources management.”
The Ishopanishad proposes the attitudinal foundation for NBS without which all other doomsday prophecies will be an empty rhetoric. “Isavasyam idam sarvam …” – Everything within the universe belongs to the Lord.
The Vedic message encourages us to be a responsible trustee of this earth, not a reckless enjoyer risking one’s individual and collective well-being. This can be accomplished by meditating on our higher purpose in human life which is to realise our real identity, our relationship with the Supreme and our duties towards other living beings and nature.
“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water,” wrote WH Auden…
Source: The speaking Tree, Honourable Gauranga Das in The Times of India Newspaper. #5th June 2019