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About the Author

Hemant Jain
Writer, designer (Mumbai, India)

I am a writer and illustrator. I like to tell stories about the world I live in and keep a tab on India's environmental crimes here:


Whose water problem?

Published 03rd April 2010 - 7 comments - 6757 views -

Please note: This is an interactive article.Hyperlinked to various articles and videos. Please feel free to click on those and use the resources. 



The UN Millennium Development Goals talk about the water crisis in great detail:

Target 3:
Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

Here then is a perspective from a nation with 1.2 Billion people: A letter to the 400 million of those Indians who live in cities and have access to a better life than the other 800 million.



(Poster copy: Every roof is a potential water harvesting structure. Use it to solve your water problems.)


Whose water problem? A letter to the average middle class Indian.


Those of us who buy bottled water without thinking twice should shut up about the water problem. We deserve it. And we deserve what is going to happen in the future. We deserve the water mafia. We deserve corporatisation of water. We deserve the foul smelling water dripping from taps. We deserve to pay a hundred times more for water. With every litre consumed.

Why, you ask?

For if we had questioned that why don’t we get clean water in our taps we would not be here in the first place - throwing our hands in despair while a handful of people hold our water supply to ransom.

Those of us living in cities where monsoon is aplenty deserve to pay hefty sums for water tankers and fill our tanks with worm infested water. We deserve the trickle supply from the municipal corporation.

Why, you ask?

Why indeed the question would come back to you. Why isn’t your building or house equipped with a water harvesting system? Who will come and do it for you? If you don’t know how water harvesting can solve your water problems, whose fault is it? You have access to more information than any other generation of people in any other age. What stops you from googling water harvesting and finding out just how you can benefit from it.

Those of us living in cities where rivers used to run fresh, deserve the gutters these rivers have become. We deserve the Yamuna and the Mithi and the Ganga and the Chambal. Polluted and out of breath.

We deserve the gutters and our complains should end up like bags of degraded plastic thrown in the river at 2000 per second.

Why, you ask?

Why indeed the question will fill your nostrils like stench. Why don’t you come out in numbers and protest. It’s our rivers. If the land mafia would rather they run dry then take the land mafia to task. If the industries would rather they carried effluents and not water, then let the industries know that there are far bigger things than profit.

Fresh water is disappearing fast from the face of this planet. And in India we used to have enough. We wasted it. We are wasting it. Millions of litres every second. There is only one thing you must remember. It’s not government’s water. It’s not municipality’s water. It’s not Coca-Cola’s water. It’s your water. It’s your problem. And you will have to solve it. Unfortunately it will require more than you using 5 litres less water every day. It will require you asking some serious questions. Addressed to yourself, to begin with.


Further reading:

India’s Imminent Water Crisis


Water Pollution in India





  • Stefan May on 03rd April 2010:

    Very interesting article, but a bit angry maybe for my taste. Yes, ignorance is rampant but often people just need to be offered a solution that they didn’t find on their own, usually because they struggle with daily life. I think we should instead call for projects to educate people in how to harvest water and micro-credit schemes that would invest in personal water harvesting systems and programs by state and civil society to skill local people in building and maintaining them, supporting in turn local economies. I’m sure this could catch on quickly if it is economically feasible.
    That would in the long run take the monopoly-power away from the “water mafia” and the various profiteers and instead enable locals to “do it on their own” and keep the profit that would otherwise be leached of them, to stay in the pockets of the locals instead. This approach would seem to me similar to the ways that I show in my article “Energy Autonomy and Women Power” how it is tried in Bangladesh to enable locals to use solar energy to not be depended on diesel engines powered with expensive imported fossil fuels.
    Seems future solutions for energy and water crisis already “shout from the rooftops”;)

  • Hemant Jain on 04th April 2010:

    Dear Stefan,
    I live in Mumbai. A megalopolis, if you may. What they call India’s “New York”. And I live in a housing society where there is NO supply of water. We buy water from water tankers. I pay £5 a month to get bracken water so I can go about my life. This is 2010.
    Let’s go back to 2001. I used to live in Delhi. Hot, humid and no water. I used to wake up at 4 am in the morning just so that I could fill 4 buckets of water which came from the municipal supply. That was when I was lucky. I ahd to buy water from tankers and it had worms in it.
    Delhi is the capital of India.
    It also has the “majestic” river called Yamuna. Which is now a gutter trickle. The Yamuna flood plains have been sold by the government to erect buildings.
    What you talk of is splendid theory.
    What I am talking of is an outrageous reality.
    The contrast comes across as anger. But hey, truth often comes across as anger, frustration, exaggeration, and seldom as truth. Unfortunately.
    There are two links in my further reading list. Take a look. The India Environment Portal link has many stories. Well researched over the years.
    Maybe you will begin to see that the time for theories is over.The reality is that water is not our government’s problem alone. It is every individual’s problem and we must really do what we can.

  • Hemant Jain on 04th April 2010:

    Also, I hear “micro-credit” as if it was a magical panacea. We will discuss it at length in subsequent posts that how it may not be the abracadabra for all problems.

  • Stefan May on 04th April 2010:

    Dear Hemant,
    I’m sorry if my comment came on as kind of snobbish, I truly wanted just to offer some “constructive criticism” to a very relevant article, no offence meant. I do understand the frustration and dramatic situation, and I think you should maybe explain this more (I don’t think that many people in most parts of Europe still can imagine to get their water from a tank).
    Also I didn’t mean to sell “microcredits” as somekind of “magical panacea”, I’m quite demystified in all those questions actually. But I’m very interested in hearing more about the drawbacks.

    I 100% agree with you that “it is every individuals problem” (we are all individuals), but I think the solution has to be increased (global) citizen cooperation, local political initiative (yes that needs anger, but ‘canalized’ into concrete action) and Civil Society mobilization - microcredits and NGO fundraising for pilot-projects might give the right incentive for change in the local economies. Please go ahead and explain other solutions to us, I’ll be the first one to applaud you if they are constructive and feasible.

    I will in future try to focus more on explaining myself better (and also the necessity of theory), thank you very much for your constructive feedback on my article and comment, I truly appreciate it. As you said: “let’s continue the dialogue”.

  • Hemant Jain on 04th April 2010:

    Stefan, not at all. Your comment did not come across as snobbish. Far from it. You made a lot of sense.
    What I will try and explain in subsequent posts is why the anger? You see the grim reality of the water situation in India has to be blamed on our corrupt government and indifferent people. We know what are the solutions. But no one is acting upon them. THAT is the real reason for anger.
    Which is why I said theory and reality. I can understand where you are coming from. What I will try and do is also paint a picture for you to see of what’s happening here.
    It will be fun. Let’s continue the dialogue!

  • Daniel on 05th April 2010:

    Great post! While angry in tone, I think you point out some solutions eg. water harvesting.

    I am planning my own post about water, so I will make use of these links that you publish. smile

  • Hussam Hussein on 21st April 2010:

    Thanks for the interesting links… as you can see, i’m also interested in this issue, and it was good that you also raised this issue! Thanks and please, keep doing it! smile

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