World Water Day: The Water Warriors

Alisha Shinde
Sunday, 22 March 2020

There are numerous protests and unending talks on water wastage. On World Water Day, Alisha Shinde talks to the changemakers who are fighting the crisis with simple, practical innovation.

A resource becomes precious when it gets scarce or there is a price hike. In summer, when there is water shortage and water cuts are imposed, we suddenly wake up from slumber and join the cry: ‘Save water’. And then soon again, we go back to our old ways. 

If we can practise more discipline and reduce water usage around the year, we can address the crisis and also help save this precious natural resource before it gets too late! 
     
This year, the theme for World Water Day (which is observed every year on March 22) revolves around water and climate change, and how the two are interlinked. The campaign, undertaken by the United Nations, shows how judicious use of water can help reduce floods, droughts, scarcity and pollution, and also fight climate change.
 
Everyone has a role to play and the earlier we start, the better.   

Don’t just talk, take action
A pair of denims is an everyday piece of clothing you will find in most people’s wardrobe. But did you know that a pair of jeans requires 70 litres of water to complete the washing and finishing process?  To stop this wastage, Numero Uno, claimed to be one of India’s first indigenously manufactured denim labels, has initiated ‘One Glass Water Denims’ collection.
 
Narinder Singh, CMD, Numero Uno, says “We believe that we can create attractive looking denims and protect our natural resources at the same time. Keeping this in mind we launched the collection. We have to work towards curbing the harmful impact of industrial wash processes on our environment.” 

Singh says that, as brands and manufacturers, they have to constantly think of ways to reduce water consumption, adopt non-toxic alternatives, practise ethical disposal and recycle effluents without increasing the costs.
 
“The fashion industry, of which denim is an integral part, is among the most polluting industries. So awareness, responsibility, choosing quality over quantity, reducing consumption consciously and respecting the environment , workers and consumers equally can help save planet Earth,” he avers.
 
Denim brands have recently realised the market for sustainable and responsible products, and this is set to grow with rising awareness. The realisation came about mostly as a result of many different factors coming into play at the same time , one of them being changing values of society. Durability and sustainability have becoming increasingly important, especially among young people. It is no longer enough for fashion companies to talk about their green ambitions, they have to prove that they are taking actual steps in making their practices greener and more ethical.

Singh says that there has been a conscious, gradual and consistent shift towards sustainable methods. The adoption of effective technology like extensive use of laser machines instead of hand scraping for the benefit of workers’ health has also helped. Use of E-Soft, Ozone/G2, and Cold-Eco Dyeing have helped reduce water and hazardous chemical consumption. Besides, rain-water harvesting to replenish ground water, use of solar water heaters and energy-efficient lights in the factory have reduced the burden on natural resources. 

“When it comes to our manufacturing units we have installed an ETP which cleans water and operates on zero liquid discharge technology so that all the water used in the washing process is completely recycled making it truly eco-conscious and responsible,” adds Singh. Sustainability should be an attitude and not only a marketing gimmick. 

Fashion is a thirsty business and brands need to take steps to conserve water. “There are technologies available to help brands tackle the issue of water, all that is needed is to work with the right industry partner. What’s imperative is that brands shouldn’t just ‘claim’ to be sustainable, rather they should maximise the technology available to create products that are environment friendly,” Singh concludes. 

Did you know?

  • Today, 1 in 3 people live without safe drinking water.
  • By 2050, up to 5.7 billion people could be living in areas where water is scarce for at least one month a year.
  • Climate-resilient water supply and sanitation could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year.
  • If we limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, we could cut climate-induced water stress by up to 50 per cent.
  • Extreme weather has caused more than 90 per cent of major disasters over the last decade.
  • By 2040, global energy demand is projected to increase by over 25 per cent and water demand is expected to increase by more than 50 per cent.

Connecting with communities
The recent Climate Strike protests prove one thing that children are more aware of the global phenomenon and are keen to learn and bring about a change. But can they influence policy makers to fight climate change on a war footing? 

Sourabh Sengupta, who founded the Dead River Project Foundation in New Delhi, says that educating the younger generation is the way forward. “Climate change is real. If you tell the children about it, they will have endless questions on how, why and what can be done. However, when it comes to adults, many will turn you away saying that climate change does not even exist,” he says. 
 
Sengupta started Dead River Project Foundation on social media with an aim to spread awareness about the deteriorating condition of rivers and water bodies across India. “When I worked in social and public sectors, I realised that human interference is the number one reason that is leading to climate change and this needs to be addressed,” says Sengupta. 

He points out that it has become extremely important to educate and sensitise our youth to be conscious of the surroundings and be efficient in taking small yet significant actions to curb water wastage and to avoid any kind of depletion of the already scarce ground water and water bodies — the lifeline of cities and villages. We also must stop dumping waste into them.

Sengupta points out that he executes this work simply by interconnecting communities by engaging them in activities like photography, knowledge workshops, experiential theatre, educational film screening, workshops and other mediums that bring communities’ collective voice together.

The primary approach is to simply reach out to the young and make them aware and engage them into taking up measures. “We have been reaching out to different localities and helping them understand ways in which water can be utilised optimally and save it from wastage,” says this water crusader. 

Stop overuse and misuse
How many times have you immediately fixed a leaking water tap at home? It could be a small thing but from a larger perspective, all the leaking taps can lead to a lot of water wastage. There needs to be a shift in people’s attitude when it comes to conserving water.
 
Chennai-based WEGoT, a water management startup, offers innovative solutions to water conservation. Abilash Haridass, co-founder and chief of growth and strategy, explains that WEGoT’s propriety IoT device and software, helps cut down demand for water by more than 50 per cent by tracking real time water flow.

“Individuals not only receive their water consumption pattern and data directly on their mobile phones, they can even turn off water supply in case of leakage using the app,” he says. 

The company’s unique technology takes into account often overseen issues like leakages, abnormal usages and open taps, thereby helping people change their behavioural pattern and consume water consciously.

“An effective way of putting a stop to the abuse and overuse of resources is simply by letting people know how much money is involved in the wastage,” says Haridass. People have become conscious of the usage because of bills and have limited over-usage.

The co-founder says the reason they started WEGoT was because they themselves faced water shortage. “We want people to make better decisions not just for themselves but for everyone out there,” he says.

Water crisis is a global problem, so innovative solutions and design thinking should become an integral part of problem solving. “It will take time because of which we need to start thinking and make people aware of the consequences of their actions,” says Haridass, adding that an effective measure is community engagement which has been fruitful even in their case.
 
Since its inception, the company has enabled their technology in more than 30,000+ houses across 12 cities and spanning 20 million sq ft of commercial properties, and has helped customers save one billion litre of water so far and aim to save more in the coming years.

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