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Water conservation is must for preventing another pandemic

Synopsis: NITI Aayog has expressed concerns over the poor water quality in India. This gives a conducive environment for the spread of another pandemic through the water. Thus, it requires an effective mechanism for water conservation.

Background:
  • NITI Aayog, Water Aid, and others have found that over 70% of India’s surface and groundwater is contaminated by human and other waste.
  • The contaminated water can be a breeding ground for numerous viruses causing another Pandemic. 
How the virus spreads through contaminated water?

Dangerous viruses can spread from animals to humans through the consumption of their meat. The closeness creates an artificial environment that can give birth to mutations in erstwhile dormant viruses.

  • After infecting a human, the virus can easily proliferate in wastewater.
    • For instance, several wastewater samples were tested and were found to carry traces of SARS-CoV-2 in England, Wales and Scotland
    • Traces of the virus have also been detected in raw sewage across Sydney.
  • Astrovirus, hepatitis A and norovirus are some water-transmitted viral pathogens.
Need for water conservation in India
  • Firstly, the wastewater gets discharged into the river. Thus, it becomes a very generous host for viruses by carrying human waste, sewage, and toxic waste. This breeds more proliferation.
  • Further, a huge population is dependent on polluted water sources for meeting their drinking requirements thereby enhancing the vulnerability. There is also a concern of growing demand in the future due to the rising population. 
  • Thirdly, the success of schemes like Nal se Jal demands the conservation of water.
    • The scheme aims to provide drinking water connections to every rural household by 2024. 
  • Fourthly, the techniques used for water purification like RO (reverse osmosis) are very costly and unaffordable for the majority population. Further, they extract the essential minerals from the water along with containments.
  • Lastly, destruction of natural resources is happening at a rapid pace as our development model focuses on building artificial infrastructure. This involves the creation of highways, industrial plants, high-rise structures, etc. at the cost of natural infrastructure.
Is there any clean source of water left?
  • There are two unpolluted freshwater sources left in the country – 
    • Water lying below our forest
    • Aquifers below the river floodplain
  • Both provide natural underground storage and are annually recharged by rain water.
  • The modest drinking requirement (2-3 litres) can be met with water below our forests.
  • Similarly, river floodplains are a great source of water for cities.
    • The Delhi Government is already using water from Yamuna floodplains to meet the requirement of million people.
Way Forward:
  • We must focus on conservation techniques for solving the water problem like: 
    • Using only a fraction of the annual recharge of water bodies and aquifers.
    • Declaring Forests and floodplains as water sanctuaries.
  • There is no technological substitute for living natural resources like pristine natural water and soil. The focus should be shifted from artificial infrastructure to natural infrastructure.

Source THE HINDU 

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