Thirsty Earth, Thirstier People: By Debajani Mohanty

Thirsty Earth, Thirstier People

She does not come with a warning.

One of the ugliest and unshakable natural disaster, she is hard to predict and may last much longer than her siblings i.e. tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. She is dark, she is arid, and she is Drought.

Owning super-chilled air conditioned bungalows, luxurious sedans and latest gadgets, or dinners in seven-star hotels does not establish the fact that we can permanently keep at arm’s length from the effects of famines, droughts and climatic changes the very reasons for decline of some of the earliest and biggest civilizations of the world.

Celestial water flowing as perennial rivers on this blue planet has remained the lifeline for almost every ancient civilization that we read in history. Study says, nearly ten thousand years ago the barren western Rajasthan used to be a green and amiable land blessed with a mighty river known as Saraswati which was bigger than the current day Indus or Sindhu. World’s largest desert Sahara that covers one third of the African continent, few thousand years ago, used to be emerald green grassland. Also after the last ice age when the glaciers melted, today’s deserts of Middle East used to be a fertile land of lush green meadows irrigated by lakes and rivers and populated by elephants, hippos, tigers as well as humans with domesticated livestock. As a result first humans out of Africa migrated out to current day Arabia and formed the cradle of civilization by the ancient world.

So what made the buoyant monsoon disappear and rivers disintegrate just within few centuries after favoring these lands for thousands of years? The reasons could be many: variations in earth’s tilt, earthquakes or simply human-introduced issues such as conflicts, wars, overpopulation or over-consumption of resources. The process of desertification though seems slow and gradual, transforms grasslands into desert that mandates constant migration of large herds of grazing animals, as well as humans in ancient world. Today in 21st century we are better equipped with wealth of science and technologies to alter the course of natural disasters by preparing ourselves well ahead of time. The key to survival is preserving the most precious natural resource on earth, WATER.

Ancient Practices

Preserving water for an unknown tomorrow is not new, it’s a technique exploited by the people of bygone era in many different ways. Here are few:

i) Rain water Preservation: Since thousands of years Indians, Chinese, Romans, Mesopotamians, Mayan have been using sophisticated rain-water collection and storage system by preserving the raindrops from rooftop in a reservoir for future use.

ii) Water reservoir: Dams have been constructed for storage and irrigation in almost all these earliest civilizations, some of which are still in operation.

iii) Eco-toilets: In ancient Rome best quality water was reserved for potable supplies. Poorer-quality water was used in public baths and in latrines. Also in certain places sea water was used to flush human wastes in toilets.

iv) Public baths: Also a place for people to get together and socialize.

What we can do in modern day


a) Check weather forecast as well as check soil moisture and have a plan for coming year(s).

b) Large amount of water fall on our rooftop every year. Take advantage of this just as our ancestors did by harvesting some of it. Stock this rainwater for drought-conditions by using it to water your fields and livestock. Installing one is simple and inexpensive. Here is an useful blog on the same

c) Slow drip watering is the best and least wasteful way to water usage in plants and key to success in less water or limited irrigation area. Please refer to this site. A sprinkler or drip watering system is something that a farmer may create himself by punching small holes to the bottom of a plastic jug and attaching it to the watering pipe or on the bottom of a plant. Here is a link on a bigger one.

d) Cover the roots and surroundings of a plant by mulch such as decaying leaves, compost or even plastic to insulate so that water is not evaporated. This is a practice widely used in the west that I observed more than a decade back. Here is a wonderful article on the same

Also water your plants during the coolest part of the day to reduce evaporation.

General Public

1) Check for and repair any leaks in your home. Leaky pipes can waste thousands of gallons of water per year.

2) Water your lawn sparingly as lawns only need to be watered once a week during the summer.

3) Adopt a business practice that promotes water conservation. For example, some restaurants serve water only on request that saves resources.

4) Raise awareness by discussing rain water saving policies in your housing society or drought-prone towns by regular meetings.

5) At school train small children to use water cautiously.

6) Turn water off when not in use. This is a bad habit usually observed among maids and children.

7) Eating with fewer utensils and by hands if possible. Also turn on washing machine or dishwasher only when in full load.

8) Use a bucket instead of a sprinkler to wash your car or even for bath. In around 30 minutes with a hosepipe you may end up using more water than the average family uses in a day.

9) Fill up a bucket and leave for an hour in summer before you take a shower. This way you don’t have to run the tap for ages just to get a cold supply of water and would get refreshing feeling of bath with lesser amount. Also in certain area in world people have started using bathed water for flushing the loo.

10) Cover your swimming pool to reduce water evaporation

P.S. Readers please translate the contents of this article to your regional languages and share it among the people who are working day and night at the grassroot level for production of our daily amenities. Spreading awareness is our social responsibility.

Debajani Mohanty

By Debajani Mohanty

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