Why Is The Water Crisis Not Part Of The Election Agenda In India?
I have just returned from the UN’s SDG Global Festival of Action where Safecity won the award in the Visualiser Category. For those who don’t know, the SDGs are Sustainable Development Goals which the Governments of the world decided to achieve by 2030 for a just, inclusive and sustainable planet. The Festival was meant to be a celebration of the achievements and innovations around the world to facilitate the SDGs.
It was a moment of reflection for not just me but everyone around, as clearly the world is lagging behind in its path to achieving the goals and time is running out. As I was reflecting on the current situation in my country given that we are in the midst of a national election, I was surprised that the discourse was on everything except the issues that matter. Clearly, our politicians are more interested in name calling matches and slinging mud at each other but hardly talking about issues that affect everyday lives of citizens. Maybe it is a diversionary tactic that plays on our sentiments and emotions to distract us from the real problems plaguing us.
Basic needs like access to water and clean air are not even part of the political discussions. Water shortage is a regular phenomenon in Maharashtra but the drought situation is only getting worse. Maharashtra may be the richest state but the drought has aggravated the farm crisis which will further impact the output of crop.
Imagine, our farmers are suffering because of drought whilst in the cities not too far from them, people are enjoying cricket matches where tons of water are being used to keep the pitches in great match condition.
Clearly the Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan or the water conservation scheme in Maharashtra State has failed spectacularly despite the investment of millions of rupees. Unlike in Cape Town where there were water advisories, there does not seem to be panic or a way to conserve and ration water. Imagine, our farmers are suffering because of drought whilst in the cities not too far from them, people are enjoying cricket matches where tons of water is being used to keep the pitches in great match condition. Further more, no one, not the politicians or the urban citizens are even discussing the severe shortage of water, its conservation, recycling and rationing or punishment for its misuse.
In the meantime, women and girls who make up most of the poor population are left with the burden of finding the water and spending hours transporting it from source to home. This leaves them vulnerable and stuck in a cycle of insecurity. The Georgetown Institute of Women, Peace and Security’s report on Women and Climate Change details water scarcity issues and its impact on climate change causing droughts and soil erosion, which not only disenfranchises women farmers, who are the majority of the agricultural workforce in Africa and elsewhere, but also undermines hygiene and sanitation, affecting maternal health, women’s economic productivity, and girls’ education.
On the other hand investment in water and access to water resources would allow for more girls to go to school and free women to pursue other activities including taking up careers which would lead to financial stability.
By not making it an election issue, we are reinforcing that some people are more equal than others and that the vulnerable do not really have a voice. It also means that our government does not represent us equally and fairly. The recent survey conducted by SheThePeople and Safecity indicated that eighty-two percent of women surveyed said that creating a women’s vote bank would help in making a unanimous women’s voice heard in politics. Unfortunately India has less than 12% women in parliament and most political parties have fielded few women candidates in the current election cycle.
The disconnect with ground issues means that finally we all will bear the brunt of food scarcity, poor health and well being and rising violence including war. Therefore, it is imperative that citizens change the current discourse from the petty politics to demanding accountability on the real issues. We need more women, from all sections of society, to weigh in on these issues and make their voices heard.
If we wait for the taps to run dry in Mumbai, to demand action, it might be too late.
The views expressed are author’s own.