Water is one of the various reasons that make the Earth a unique planet. This 71 percent part of the Earth’s surface is majorly in the form of saline fluid in the oceans and seas or is trapped in glaciers and icecaps as freshwater. Also, rivers, lakes, ponds, underground aquifers, etc. together make up this life supporting natural resource. However, apart from satisfying the needs of life, is this water trying to convey something else lately?
The world talked about the people in Iceland going for annual mourning sessions at the Okjokull glacier, which was declared dead in 2014. In the following years too, every region from Australia to Brazil, from India to the United States, saw calamities in the form of forest fires, cyclones and hurricanes, floods, droughts, etc. Water system had some or the other role to play in the occurrence of all these. From the longer positive Indian Ocean Dipole, frequent El-Nino to Arctic fertilization and Watermelon snow at Antarctica, the frequency of the water giving alarming signals to the humans has been increasing for the last few years. It has for long now been acting as a messenger of nature, warning how bigger disasters and calamities can make the Sixth Mass Extinction a reality.
Coming to India, the recent glacial outburst is not some ‘out of the blue’ occurrence, especially when the scientists had recently concluded that the August 2014 glacial lake outburst near the Gya village of Ladakh was very much due to anthropogenic activities like tunnelling the drainage process falsifying the assumption of a spill over. Along with this, the Uttarakhand floods and landslides of 2013 showcase the importance of adopting more sustainable ways towards development. Indians seem to have become comfortable with the fact that about 22% of the groundwater has either dried up or are in critical condition, cyclones and floods are becoming more frequent along with droughts, all endangering both life and livelihood. The disaster, like the one that happened a few days back in Uttarakhand, is just an outcome of our ignorance towards the message the water was trying to convey for a long time. All the previous signals just became a victim of our poor memory, turning these into small ripples in time until something devastating like the glacial outburst in Uttarakhand happened.
But is the world really striving to overcome the wrath of nature? The last decade witnessed a tussle between the developing and the developed world over the need to cut-down emissions and control the global temperature. Consumerism, indeed, has made mankind quite shallow to even disrupt the trail leading to their destruction. The more developed a nation is, the more is the negligence towards the environmental issues, both at micro and macro level. For instance- studies show that an average Indian lifestyle, if followed by every individual around the world, would need 0.7 Earths to sustain life. This number becomes 2.2 for Chinese, 4.1 for Australian and 5 Earths for the USA. At the national level, India, as declared by the United Nations Environment Program in their Emission Gap Report of 2020, is on the right path to attain and rather exceed its commitment to cut down 33-35% emission intensity of its GDP from 2005 level by 2030. India, via alliances like the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, is not only working to achieve its own environmental goals but is also helping the world.
Nevertheless, the world including India shall increase the pace to find a golden mean between development and environmental protection. It is time, the countries take the message this water system on the Earth is trying to give us. It is time, they realize that human beings are a part of nature and not above it. Also, it is time, we come together to make Earth, the planet sustaining life, forever own this uniqueness. Being the most emotionally evolved species, we must give meaning and purpose to our existence by fulfilling the duty we owe to our planet.