The protection and improvement of our physical environment has been a global concern for a few decades. The first formal world conference on the Environment, under the UN auspices, was in Rio, Brazil, in 1992. It raised high hopes. There have been many agreements, the latest being the Paris Accord of 2016. There has also been some action in all countries. But, not enough. Common people are now demonstrating in public spaces, in many countries, for more action. They are not just leaving it to the governments, and businesses. You may have come across the name, Greta Thunberg. Who is she? A Swedish student. She got the Amnesty International Award. Why? She has sparked a global movement of students. Do you know what the movement has been called? It has been given the name “Extinction Rebellion”! A rebellion from the grassroots to prevent further extinction of more and more species of plants and animals, and as a consequence, also us the humans, eventually.

Among the various serious problems of climate change, one particular resource crisis has become immediate and serious. That is the acute shortage of water. There are many efforts by Central, State and Local governments, as well as by people’s own initiatives, in our cities and villages, to conserve and share water. Our ancients had recognized the vital importance of water. There is a sloka, in Matsya Purana (No. 154:512), which is now being retrieved and discussed.

दशकू पसमा वापी दशवापीसमो ह्रदः ।

ह्र  पत्र

ो दशपत्र

 द्रमः  ॥

The meaning is as follows –

  • Ten wells are equal to one pond
  • Ten ponds are equal to one lake.
  • The lakes are equal to one son.
  • Ten sons are equal to one tree.

Those of you who have lived in villages, even for some years of your life, or visited them frequently, would recall that in almost all big villages, or clusters of small villages, there was a lake to capture water from rains, springs or any other sources. These lakes were the source of supply of water for irrigation, cattle and people. In hot summers, some lakes would dry up. Till the next rainy season, people would have walked a few kilometres to bathe, wash clothes and bring drinking water home. As we live in towns and cities, with piped water, we get alienated from these roots. Instead, we waste water. In the current water crisis, we can benefit from the wisdom captured in the above sloka. The desire for sons and daughters is natural, and perennial. It is remarkable that ten lakes can give as much satisfaction as having a child.

The sloka goes further. It extends to trees, as a metaphor for plants, greenery, forests, etc. Trees reduce evaporation of water; attract rain; raise the water table, etc. Tree cover has been falling, worldwide. A major concern is the clearance of Amazon rainforests, to expand agriculture. In India also, apart from reserved forests, we need local tree plantations, and clusters. Every little bit will help. Things have become more and more urgent. Chennai has been in news headline for its acute water scarcity. This will affect all, including the better off. Protection of our environment has always been important. We have allowed it also to become urgent. It is nearing a matter of life and death.

You can and must now act as follows –– Conserve water. Use it sparingly. Protect existing greenery. Plant more trees. Persuade others to do so. Organise local groups. Cooperate with all government and NGO initiatives for conserving and upgrading water and the environment.

(606 words)