Half-Full or Full-Empty

Typically, any lateral thinking workshop involves an exercise of a half-filled glass of water.


“Is it full or empty?”, the gregarious moderator will ask. The exercise apparently highlights the power of hope, optimism and positive thinking. The moral being that even in the dourest situation, there’s always the hope of redemption. We aren’t over the cliff, till we are actually over it.

Were we to employ the same drill to the issue of water scarcity that plagues us, even an optimist will not be able to discern the glass as full, or rather half full. It is full-empty in an oxymoronic way. We seemed to have reached a stage that statistics, figures, projections, etc, don’t matter anymore. In fact, from no matter which angle you look at it, we are going to be in a big mess, if we aren’t in it already. It is an issue scarier than we can actually imagine.
Forget countries, even states within the same dominion are battling each other for every tiny water source. The current crisis in Andhra Pradesh over water is a vivid reminder of where we are headed. And when the whole world is going into a topsy-turvy, how can businesses continue as is? When the land is parched, the taps in the company premises will run dry as well. Just, last summer, in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, factories and breweries were shut for months simply because there was no water available. The cost of water is rising by the day, for instance, the average cost of water in Mumbai was `25 / m3 last year and shot up to `40/m3 this year. Businesses need now look at their water consumption from a purely economic purview.

That brings us to the quintessential question. Are Indian corporates doing enough on the water front? Well, it is a bit like that half-full half-empty glass. While some have taken the lead and are assiduously mapping their water footprint, and working hard through water harvesting and waste water management tactics to reduce it, a vast majority of them are just about skimming the surface. They seem to be a tad confused between the efforts required to reduce their own water footprint to the actions in helping communities cope with the crisis. Any company that looks at water from a CSR prism, is looking at it the wrong way.

Honestly, when it comes to water, we as human species are faced with a troubling paradox. On one side, we are reminded of the melting ice-caps and the rising water levels that will inundate our coast-lines and turn millions into refugees. While on the other hand, we have to prepare for missing monsoons, droughts, and rivers running dry. I guess, this cruel dichotomy only adds to our confusion. But then, we should not forget that in India, there is only 4% of world’s water resources for 18% of the world’s population. Water, thus is a privilege, not a right.

In this special issue inside, you will find stories, columns and case studies that highlight the issue and also talk about the best practices that need be adopted. This issue is meant to be a rude wake up call, to get the act in order. Let me have your thoughts on this issue, even if they begin with the letter F and end with a K. Drop a line at editor@sustainuance.com. Till then, don’t forget to turn off the taps, and yes, drink plenty of water.

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