Technological boons turned curses now

You can call it a blessing or a curse of the modern age. Most of our modern devices, which claim to clean up the environment, actually end up wasting our precious resources and polluting the environment even more! Few realise that the Reverse Osmosis water purifiers they proudly install at home, end up discarding 40 per cent of the water they are fed with. That is a huge chunk of precious drinking water we pay for through the nose.

Dunu Roy, director, NGO Hazard Centre, says, “There is a basic principle on which nature works. It is that pollutants cannot be destroyed; they are just transferred from one place to the other, meaning, from where we don’t want to see them to a spot where they are invisible. Our RO purifiers make the water go through a membrane which pollutants cannot pass. But then, these pollutants need to be flushed out. So 40 per cent of our good drinking water is spent on flushing them.”

Nitya Jacob, programme director, water, CSE, adds, “If one worries about domestic ROs, then those used in offices and public institutions are an even bigger concern. The amount of water wasted there is phenomenal. Then even our air conditioners and refrigerators are water wasters. Both absorb moisture from the atmosphere, condense it for cooling and then discard it. Many don’t notice it but both the devices have pipes running up to a sewage drain to discard liquid.”

Both point out that clean usable water and sewage are intrinsically linked. When we throw away clean water, for any reason, into a drain, it contributes to sewage which further pollutes our pure water resources. For example, more the sewage we dump in Yamuna, more the drinking water source is polluted in cities in lower reaches like Agra and Vrindavan.
Dunu says, “Many people enquire if they can save the water being wasted by RO, AC, fridge etc by collecting it and using it for mopping the floor and gardening. I say, why pollute the water first and then look for secondary uses? Why not minimise the pollution in the first place?”

“In the olden days, people didn’t use RO but an earthen matka or surahi to keep water cool. It is not an outdated method but only ‘unfashionable’ now. Similarly, homes earlier were built with thick walls, high ceilings and natural ventilation. An AC was not required. Now, more the usage of AC at homes, higher the temperature becomes outside. Then, we need even more cooling.”

Nitya adds, “Certain lifestyle changes are necessary. Machine dishwashers are not a compulsion, nor are showers and hosepipes to clean cars. Many people don’t bother to repair their leaking pipes or taps for days leading to humungous water wastage. All of us must remember that clean water is a boon and sewage a curse. But a boon not used wisely, also becomes a curse.”  Touché. 

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