India has witnessed numerous wars following World Wars I and II, as well as post-independence, employing a variety of weapons, including firearms, tanks, fighter planes, and bombs, to combat the enemy. The adversary’s use of bombs to plot strikes is also evident in several films, with the 2023 version of the movie “Oppenheimer” portraying the development of an atomic bomb. However, have you ever considered the possibility that we are all sitting on a time bomb capable of blowing up the planet in various ways?
You might be wondering, “What is this time bomb?” Does it share similar effects with chemical warfare, atom bombs, explosive nature, etc.? The bomb I will discuss in this blog is “water,” the most vital component of life. Yes, what you heard or read is correct—water will act as a time bomb in the future. You may be wondering how water could be a time bomb at this point. Allow me to illustrate this with a few instances that we have recently witnessed.
Water constitutes 70% of our body’s internal volume and 70% of its external surface area, playing a crucial role in our metabolism, distribution, and excretion. Every settlement in the past was situated near a body of water, such as a river, lake, or pond. In regions where water is scarce, people view water as a more valuable resource than precious materials. For example, in Rajasthan and Gujarat, numerous water management techniques are still more effective than contemporary approaches, including Tanka, House Kund, Kuis, Talab, Sarovar, Jaseri, Bawadis, Hindu Temple Tanks, Man-Made Sarovars (Hussain Sagar Lake), etc.
Water body upkeep has become a challenging task for municipalities and villages due to population growth and the resulting tenfold increase in demand for land and water. Urban expansion has led to the construction of buildings, villas, colleges, hospitals, malls, and other structures on land that used to host sizable bodies of water. The encroachment of water bodies onto landmass is one cause of recent floods in Hyderabad and Chennai.
According to statistics from DownToEarth, Hyderabad had about 400 lakes between 1912 and 1930, of which 48 could absorb floods. After independence, the number of lakes decreased to just 169, and even those are not in good shape due to issues like excessive water hyacinth growth, sewage and drainage from cities being diverted into the lakes, idol immersion, and other rubbish being submerged, and local residents throwing trash into the lakes. Governmental and corporate organizations have encroached upon the catchment region that formerly transported lake water from one lake to another.
The government spends billions of dollars transporting water from distant rivers and water sources. If these water sources had been accessed earlier, the state and the city would have had to spend more on pipeline construction or the construction of more recent dams. Additionally, the irrigation department and the planning and welfare department (PWD) must take action to appropriately remove waste from the lake and prohibit building construction in the lake or watershed region.
Due to poor preparation prior to the monsoon, Hyderabad and Secunderabad experience flooding every year. If you’re wondering why the department made poor planning decisions, the government spends between 100 and 300 crores each year on lake and catchment area cleanup. When the irrigation department, PWD, and municipality receive an order to clean the lakes and catchment region, workers remove water hyacinth and other pollutants, dumping them close to the banks. This results in more mosquitoes in the neighborhood, and the foul scent permeates the entire area, posing health risks that become an annual cycle, burdening the general public with the cost of both the chemist’s and the doctor’s care.
Now, when it rains during the monsoon, the trash thrown on the banks is washed away to the lakes, clogging the catchment area and drain points, resulting in significant flooding. Waterlogging causes extensive damage to property and means of subsistence in areas where land areas have been encroached upon, as in the cases of a few societies and colleges in and around Hyderabad.
Due to the rapid occurrence of global warming and the changing intensity of rain in Hyderabad, the season’s rainfall either arrives in two days or there is unseasonal rain, making it impossible to predict how much will fall and potentially cause flooding, disrupting people’s daily lives. As mentioned earlier, this is akin to a ticking time bomb whose detonation and potential effects on society are unknown.