October 2017. The residents of Cape Town, South Africa, first heard the news that the city would run out of the water by March 2018. It was called “Day Zero”; the day municipality water would be shut off.
As a result, the authorities imposed water restrictions. In January 2018, they allocated 87 litres of water per person per day. This allocation included all of the daily activities such as drinking, cooking, bathing, and cleaning. In February 2018, this got revised to 50 litres per person per day.
“Day Zero” was then shifted to April 21st, after which the allocation was just 25 litres. People would have to collect their rations by lining up at 149 water points across the city.
The residents didn’t give up. They realised the threat. They saw it with their very own eyes. They needed to react. They started saving water through various measures. Each person began taking responsibility to conserve more.
What was the result of these 4 million people working towards one single goal?
The reservoir levels rose.
“Day Zero” was pushed to May 2018. Then to July, to August, to 2019 and finally the “Day Zero” clock has been paused for now.
The residents had managed to bring down the water consumption by more than half to 516 million litres per day. In 2014, daily water consumption had been 1.2 billion litres.
Most of us are aware of the need for sustainability. You and I, both know the resources are limited. Be it water, electricity, or fuel. We know that the rate of their usage far exceeds the rate of replenishment.
What are we doing about it? No, wait. Let’s change the question a little.
What are you doing about it?
Most times, as a community, we lack the initiative to avoid distress. We know multiple “Day Zero” scenarios could happen, but we don’t realise its full impact until its right at our doorstep.
I am sure Western Cape province didn’t see the “Day Zero” coming a few years ago. They did manage to control their water situation. Once the awareness spread, they reacted instantly to the fear of having no or minimal water.
What they didn’t anticipate was a loss of 37,000 jobs. Neither was the US $1.17 billion loss in agriculture expected. Along with this, an estimated 50,000 people were pushed below the poverty line.
Can you imagine how different the results would have been had they taken preventive measures instead of salvaging this kind of a situation? They would have at least minimised the losses, if not avoided the “Day Zero” completely.
You may be lulled, into non-action by assuming that the environmental threats are no immediate danger to you. That’s where you are wrong.
Sao Paulo, Melbourne, Jakarta, London, Beijing, Istanbul, Tokyo, Barcelona, Mexico, and Bangalore are amongst the list of cities that will run out of water in the next few decades. We need to change our consumption patterns now and not when the clock starts ticking.
Take other natural resources, for instance. In 2013, Tamil Nadu, India faced severe power shortages. The demand was more than the supply. Rural areas faced up to 8 hours of no electricity.
You may think that such a situation would bring awareness and alarm to a certain extent. Unfortunately, it isn’t so; 6 years later, there is still no reduction in electricity consumption patterns. The residents still wonder if they would have an uninterrupted power supply, come summer.
It is common for many to think, “let the conservationists take action” or “let the governments take action”. However, these organisations are not going to be successful without you and me helping them. They may be able to put rules and regulations in place, but it is up to us to act on them.
No authority would be able to restrict you when it comes to consumption in your own home. It is up to you to switch off the lights when not in use, or to stop the tap from leaking. You are responsible for rainwater harvesting and other water saving measures within your home.
Some organisations and public places have restrictions on usage, but, why must we wait for that to happen? Take the initiative now. Conservation has to start with you to make an actual difference.
Start today. Contribute towards saving the environment.