During Covid, the administration had framed a set of guidelines to be followed by the citizens for their own welfare. Maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, avoiding public gatherings, and using sanitizers were a part of Covid Appropriate Behavior (CAB). However many people with the “My Life My Rules” attitude found great pleasure to flout the rules even after knowing that it may cost them their lives. Hence “Covid Marshals” were appointed to keep an eye on such ‘Khatron ke Khiladi’ and penalize them for not following the CAB. Agree that, today we may not want to remember those bitter covid days, but some learnings can be taken forward.
After the lockdown, we launched the ‘Stop the Drop’ campaign where a helpline number was provided for the citizens to report any water leakages. We visited the leakage sites with a team of plumbers and got them fixed. From Waghwade to Sambra, from Majgaon to Angol we traveled through every corner of the city fixing the leakages. After two months of extensive traveling, we could come to the conclusion that water is not just wasted in Belagavi but it is been abused. Yes, “abuse” is the word that means beyond wastage or wasting with fun.
Compared to neighboring cities, thankfully Belagavi is blessed with good water sources around and sufficient drinking water. However, anything that is easily available has less respect and we can see that happening with water also.
As per our observations, small reasons like broken taps, rusted pipes, damaged valves, and crack in tanks causing water wastage to a great extent were left unattended, and water kept on flowing in the drains. Gone are the days when people took efforts to hand pump the groundwater. Now, bore wells are fixed with overhead tanks pumping the groundwater at high speeds. People switch ON the motor but leave it to others to switch it OFF, no matter if it takes hours for anyone to notice the overflow and press the red button. People with good ‘influence’ have taken branches from these tanks to get the groundwater right at their doorstep. Little do they know that it takes several years for the groundwater formation and that they are playing with the country’s natural resource as if it is their ancestral property. Using groundwater or drinking water to wash vehicles or clean the roads using a pipeline was a common sight that was observed at many places. Very few people understand that if there is major water leakage in the supply system, it is our duty to inform the concerned department.
In line with the Covid Marshals, can the same idea be implemented for water? The administration can set some guidelines for the judicious usage of water and appoint Water Marshals to check for water being ‘abused’ and penalize the habitual violators. Surprise checks can be done at random locations not only to check wastage on citizens’ part but also to check for leakages in the supply system. Belagavi can be the first city in the country to introduce Water Marshals and set a benchmark for other cities.
As per the Environmental Management and Policy Research Institute (EMPRI), 17 districts in Karnataka are to be vulnerable to water crises in 2023 and Belagavi stands in the 9th place. Many areas in Belagavi are already facing acute water shortage crises in March and we still have April and May approaching.
Today, March 22 is observed as World Water Day. The theme for 2023 is about accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis. And because water affects us all, we need everyone to take action. We and our families, institutions, organizations, and community can make a difference by changing the way we use, consume, and manage water in our daily lives.
About the Author:
Mandar Kolhapure, Awarded Water Hero by Govt of India for Cutting Pani campaign. Executor, Stop the Drop campaign.