The two lines of poetry from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous ballad which is related to the sea-journey experience of an ancient mariner who kills an albatross with his crossbow without any rhyme or reason are reflective of what is happening today.

The act of killing a harmless bird owing to an inner tendency for hating beautiful things brings severe punishment and extreme torture for the whole crew. As things would have it, the companions of the ancient mariner laud and extol him for killing the sea-bird, and thus become sharers in the evil act. Their condition worsens owing to the extreme, torrid weather. The wind stands still and the ship stops moving as if stuck in sea water and it appears like “a painted ship upon a painted ocean.” The crew is left neither with food to eat nor water to drink. One by one, the companions fall unconscious on the deck, never to raise again as they meet their death. Their death can be interpreted as an act of retribution, but death, however, doesn’t come to the ancient mariner. He is alone on the deck in death-in-life condition. At this climactic moment, the miserable wretch cries out:

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

Scarcity of water, which appears in three dimensions of water shortage, stress and crisis, has become a major problem for many countries of the world, not necessarily for those which are surrounded by vast vistas of desert but also for those which are otherwise agricultural countries like Iraq or Pakistan.

Nature has conferred plentiful bounties upon Pakistan. Recently, it has been gifted with a huge fresh-water reservoir; Ata Lake.

This is only one side of the coin. The other side presents Pakistan as one of the worst ten water deficient countries of the world. It is perhaps the single most vital item, necessary for human existence. At the same time, a presumption of the public mainly living in rural areas persists that water availability is infinite. No, it is not like that. Of course, sea water is all around: there is water in air; inside earth is ground water, and on mountains in the form of snow which melts and water flows through streams and rivers.

But out of this huge quantity, more than 97% is brackish and salty water, which is not drinkable.

One sad reason for scarcity of water is stock of loose, lavish, careless habits of the prodigal homo sapiens.

Horrible! Blind to the future!

Ignoring this ill-treatment which water receives due to wasteful manners, loose moral principles and morbid mentality, just think, for a moment, how this precious and rare blessing of nature is being desecrated at the broader level in the hands of governments.

In Pakistan there is hardly any water command management system such as sprinkler irrigation. Do we have sufficient water reservoirs to collect and save rain and flood water so that it could be used in dry season or for generating electricity to solve the energy crisis which has almost grown to uncontrollable limits? As the problem is all the more acute neither rain nor water is equally distributed over the land of Pakistan. Sprinkler irrigation can be very successful in Tharparkar, where devastating famine is a yearly incident on account of the paucity of water. The writer would like to ask once more, “Don’t we realise the importance and need for the construction of Kalabagh Dam for economic growth?” Protesting against this lucrative project is tantamount to self-mortification. It is high time to realise that the climate of the earth is changing fast and days are not far away when water deficiency crisis can become uncontrollable and unmanageable.

Industrial Revolution and Green Revolution brought enormous increase in the use of water. The obvious result is that need for water has risen many times more than its insufficient supply. In the 19th and early 20th century, industrialisation was mostly confined to the developed countries of the West, but gradually technology was transported to Japan, Malaysia, China and India. The clouds of smoke emitting from chimneys of the industrial units belonging both to developed and developing countries have resulted in global warming. The emission of mainly carbon dioxide and methane gas causes greenhouse effect and further raises the earth’s

temperature which finally becomes the reason for excessive evaporation of water from the earth.

The polluted factory water near Kala Shah Kaku, Lahore contains chemicals which drain out either in river Ravi or on an open place, kills not only the fish in the river, but lend sterility and salinity to the agricultural land. It will take decades to recover the fertility and health of the land.

The location of most cities of the world is near rivers and lakes which indicate that water for human societies was readily available once. Imagine what price is now being paid for a decent living when pollution in rivers, streams and lakes is causing devastating havoc!

The worst treatment which was given to water was trapping it in plastic bottles and selling it in the market. This happened in the US around 1845 and later on was coded as “privatisation of water” during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure in 1980. Privatisation of water was a smart business repartee to media’s complaint against water pollution around 1970. Swiss Nestle, US Pepsi and Coca Cola, and French Danone soon became leading players on the world plastic bottled water market.

Seeing huge profits of these companies, many more companies such as Vivendi, Suez and German RWE joined the business and multinational massive expansion of private water industry brought revenues of billions of dollars.

The surprizing fact is that water which multinational companies sell actually belongs to the country where it is found, but it is the companies which earn the revenue. The situation is to some extent like that of the Middle East oil which belongs to the Arabs, but a substantial portion of profit goes to the western companies.

The fact is that water, like air, is a blissful item which belongs to the whole world. Therefore, water should not be privatised. Whether developed or developing countries, whether West or East, whether China or Brazil, every country is in favour of democratisation of water because this is an empirical and pragmatic approach towards solution, not only to minimise insecurity and conflict, but to protect the ecosystem and agricultural yield through sprinkler irrigation.