No rice on our plates: Frames of Kashmir’s fraught future

‘The problem is staring at us in our faces, but we seem to be ignorant about it… Kashmir has been gifted by nature with abundant water resources, but current trends are worrying.’

Walking down a busy street in the heart of Srinagar city, I saw a migrant couple helping their children get a drink of water.

There is nothing unusual about this, but what struck me the most was that that the children were drinking the water through a hole punched in a polythene bag.

The mother and the two kids were sitting in a squatting position on the edge of a footpath while the man stood slightly behind them, bent and holding the bag of water.

The three parched souls took turns to quench their thirst.

Cultivation of rice consumes about 4,000 to 5,000 litres of water per kg. [FPK Photo/Aamir Nowshahri.]

The woman first assisted the younger of the two children before taking a sip herself.

After a while, the elder child moved from his position a bit and placed his mouth directly on the outlet of the life-saving liquid.

This scene brought back some stark memories. My mind immediately went back about ten years when I was working in Delhi and was living with a friend in a rented accommodation.

The area we were living in had been witnessing some issues related to water supply for quite a while and a time came when we were actually forced to buy water from the market even to flush the toilet.

On average, 22,500 litres of water are required to produce one kg of cotton. [FPK Photo /Aamir Nowshahri.]

Kashmir has been gifted by nature with abundant water resources, but current trends are worrying.

Changes in environmental conditions at the local and also the global level are taking a toll on what may be available for the generations to come.

It is human nature to take resources available in abundance for granted, thinking that they will never get exhausted. The same, somehow, seems to be happening with water.

We need to take a closer look around us and ask ourselves whether we are being thankful for what have.

Being thankless may just be the reason for something being taken away after it has been granted.

Around 20 litres of water are used up to produce a single A4 size sheet of paper. [FPK Photo/Aamir Nowshahri.]

While some things are under our control, there are quite a few that we cannot do much about. The current water crisis has resulted from a combination of man-made and natural reasons.

Global warming and climate change are among the biggest threats facing the planet and the hottest topics of debate in the present times.

Like any other place on the globe, Kashmir is not exempt from the catastrophic effects of these phenomena.

Every now and then, we come across news of glaciers melting, rain and snow becoming scarce and taps running dry.

With the passage of time, the frequency of such news items is only increasing and things are turning from bad to worse.

A pair of jeans requires approximately 7,600 litres of water during the manufacturing process. [FPK Photo/Aamir Nowshahri.]

Extreme and erratic weather patterns are becoming a reality and have a role to play in affecting the water cycle.

Groundwater levels are receding and lack of rainfall and phenomena like industrialisation and urbanisation are increasing the pressure on this fast depleting resource.

Agriculture is getting affected due to shortages of water and for quite some time now, farmers in Kashmir are being advised to shift from cultivating water intensive crops like rice to ones that don’t require much irrigation.

Imagine a time may come when there would be no rice on our plates and we would be forced to change our staple diet.

Water used for manufacturing a single car can range from 4,000 litres to around 1,50,000 litres. [FPK Photo/Aamir Nowshahri.]

The problem is staring at us in our faces, but we seem to be ignorant about it. We as a community need to seriously think about what can be done and what needs to be done, both at the individual as well as the collective level to face the challenge.

The combined effect of the two experiences that I described above sometimes makes me worry for Kashmir.

A time may come, God forbid, when every single one of us will be forced to collect drinking water in polythene bags and buy water to clean ourselves and flush the toilet after answering nature’s call.

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