Amid warnings that the world is running short of fresh drinking water and that the super-powers or others may go to war to grab control of fresh water resources just as they did to grab fuel supply sources, recommendations have been made for the Sri Lankan Government to introduce tough regulations to conserve fresh water sources.
Our sister newspaper the Sunday Times reported in its front page lead story that Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena had recommended to Cabinet that regulations be introduced to protect drinking water in rivers and canals polluted because of excessive sand mining and other factors such as the discharge of industrial effluence. In a move coinciding with Earth Day which the world marked yesterday, the Minister has also proposed the setting up of a new Department of National Community Water and a monitoring unit to ensure that contaminated or impure water is not sold by unscrupulous traders as bottled water. In recent years, investigations have revealed that hundreds of brands of bottled water have been marketed to people with impressive labels, but only a few have been approved by the Sri Lanka Standards Institution. There have been cases where wicked traders have filled bottles from roadside taps and marketed them with counterfeit labels.
The minister warned that if the tough regulations were not effectively implemented, Sri Lanka may soon face a clean drinking water crisis. Independent analysts say that if this happens, while millions of people are already overloaded with an unpalatable cost of living and other serious problems, the boast about Sri Lanka becoming the miracle of Asia will be more of a mirage.
The Minister says the main aim of the new Department of National Community Water will be to ensure supply of pure and adequate drinking water and basic health facilities for all, especially the rural communities. It will also set up a mechanism to conserve water sources and protect catchments areas. While the Government acts urgently and effectively on the Minister’s recommendations, the people themselves need to save water and stop wasting it.
There are many ways in which the common people could save water not just to reduce their water bills but more so to help our country at a time of crisis. When washing our hands, plates or other utensils, we need not open the tap fully. We could also reduce our daily shower/bath time though we are going through one of the hottest periods which is attributed to global warming. We also need to be more enterprising and work out a system, as many have done, to divert the bath-water or water from the washing sink to the cistern in the toilet commode. Another way of saving water is the process of rainwater harvesting, which we could learn to do by contacting agencies involved in this. It will be much in line with King Parakramabahu’s plea that every drop of rainwater should be made use of. Just because we freely get it from the sky, we should not be wishy-washy and freely waste the rainwater.
In addition we should not use purified water for washing vehicles or to water plants, but we need to innovate other ways of attending to such tasks.
With global warming drastically changing weather patterns and bringing about long drought periods, Sri Lanka, though being an island paradise with six major rivers must not be complacent. We need to act fast before we drown in a water crisis.