Not so long ago, (in what is now considered unimaginable ), everyone drank water from the municipal water supply. No one asked if you would have bottled water or regular water.
Regular water did not mean filtered water. Drinking water meant municipal tap water.
Bottled water found its way into urban India as a “solution” to the increasingly poor quality of municipal water. From a non existent market in the eighties it has grown to more than 160 billion rupees in 2018.
Most packaged or bottled water does not certify itself as drinking water. Check its fine print the next time, if you are one of its consumers. Municipal authorities no longer take their responsibility to provide drinking quality water seriously.
Drinking water no longer means municipal water.
Thousands of unspecified water sources are now being exploited to use up between 1.5 to 6 litres of water for every litre that is bottled.
Fresh and natural water springs fall prey to exploitation as the packager moves to newer sources as old ones go dry. With huge demand, increasingly scarcer unpolluted water reserves, the growing packaging of municipal water or even water from less than potable sources becomes indistinguishable from that which may have come from potable sources.
Every day millions of plastic bottles find their way into rivers as they are discarded after consumption of the water they package.
The pollution of rivers and seas with discarded bottled water is not just a physical problem. Heating and cooling of the bottles releases the binding agent used to give the bottle its strength.
Once released, they find their way into the water. Researchers have discovered that these chemicals mimic the hormones in our bodies. When exposed to these endocrine disruptors, as scientists call them, natural body function plays havoc.
Reproductive cycles of humans and other animals exposed to endocrine disruptors have been documented to go astray. Unexplained symptoms or lasting diseases increasingly surface in exposed populations.
Meanwhile, we have become a society addicted to packaged water. The solution of yesterday is a problem of today.
Not long ago, in what appears silly and impractical, shopping for clothes was an annual affair, not whenever malls announced sales or you happened to visit them. Shopping for consumer durables was a lifetime event, not an upgrade on EMI every few years or even months.
Shopping groceries was once a month with a fixed list of what was needed, not a shopping spree every few days to pick up whatever was attractively presented at “discounted” deals in the super markets.
Each of the shopping needs, just 30 years ago, was satisfied at different shops, in different locations across the city.
Malls and super markets came in as a solution to having to shop different things in different places. Meanwhile, retail industry as grown from 9 lakh crores in 2000 to 50 lakh crores in 2017. It is estimated that our waste generation per day has increased by at least one hundred fold in the same period.
Every city struggles to find place to throw “away” its waste and increasingly discovers there is no away. More and more of our forests, mountains and rivers disappear to make way for the resources to manufacture all we want to consume.
More and more fossil fuels get burnt to produce energy to manufacture and transport all the goods and services we want for shorter and shorter periods. Global temperatures rise as the carbon released by the fossil fuels cannot be absorbed anymore by our disappearing forests and rivers.
Swaach Bharat recognises the growing waste as a problem of today, but misses the consumption of the malls, a solution of yesterday for the growing economy, as the problem.
Like our addiction to bottled water, our addiction to consumption is the short term swallowing the short now – the lifetime of a child born today.
#All views expressed in this column are the authors and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph