By Biswaraj Patnaik in Puri, July 29, 2021: As the world was seriously observing the World Nature Conservation Day yesterday, the people of India had their attention elsewhere – focus lay on the news of an eastern Indian temple town on sea, Jagannath Puri which has just been equipped with round the clock drinking water from public taps installed all over the city. Puri, now specifically made the face of Odisha by the visionary chief minister, attracts more than 20 million visitors from all over the globe, most of them pilgrim-tourists. The 12 century Jagannath temple is mind blowingly majestic, and the sea alongside exquisitely beautiful for the calm, shallow waters and the clean golden sands. Two years ago, the Puri beaches were declared the best kept and given the most coveted blue flag tags.

On record, Puri is the first city in India to have free high-grade potable water available day and night for the 300 thousand residents and countless visitors that make footfall throughout the year. Tap installations have been meticulously made all over the township. No more has anyone to run to shops to pick bottled water of any size or quality. The government authorities worked silently without any hue and cry, and one fine morning Puri emerged as a transformed city, exactly the same way it had got blue flag beaches in the recent past.

Odisha, by all standards and parameters, is now a desired destination for having nature’s bounties in myriad forms- beaches, mountains, forests, rare animals and birds, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and even snows in winter apart from the widely known heritage monuments intact since the Ashokan times of the 4th century BC. They say it’s been the best kept secret of India for long; though of late, it has started unfolding itself under ablest of hands.

Not surprisingly, the drinking water scheme in Puri is making ripples across top-end, most liveable cities of the world. As per studies, among Indian cities, Mumbai has the cleanest drinking water supply and Delhi has the filthiest. Among the capital cities of India, Bhubaneswar has extremely clean water supply beating most capital cities of the country.

Water is the most basic ingredient that makes life possible. All living organisms have been born and created in and by water. But then, after millions of years of natural evolution, water which was so abundant for thousands of years during all the human supremacy centuries is suddenly becoming a scarce commodity because of the insanely luxury-seeking modern man of today. A human being, as any advanced-brain possessing animal, can leave without food for a month; but will die within a week if water is not ingested.

The world is a watery place. But unfortunately, the sea waters have 97 portions out of hundred which is salty, two portions are permanent ice, and the rest one portion is mostly glaciers in the mountains that melt in warmer days to feed perennial rivers which keep charging ground waters only on the adjacent command areas. Out of the total one percent world’s available fresh water, Glaciers count for more than 68 per cent. The rest 32 percent is stored under or on the ground.

The underground water is so badly exploited today that replenishment has become just impossible. The water clouds that form by drawing water from the ground surface throw back the same in form of rains which come pouring in too soon and too much in quantity. This water is essentially run-off. It falls and flows down to the sea. Harnessing rain water has not been a viable proposition in the absence of a practicable mechanism until this day. Rain water falls fast, flows ferociously causing floods as if taking revenge on mankind, though at the same time charging ground water levels to an extent.

Super scientists have been easily making rockets to take man to planet Mars, but have failed to develop a good enough mechanism to harvest rain water which can solve agro-irrigation and human consumption water problems. They say if solutions are not found soon, by 2040 world wars may be fought over water. Among the materially wealthy, the average American consumes 1 lakh litres of water in a year. The toilet flush alone is 40 litres per day per person in the US, which madden the people of Eritrea, Papua New Guinea and Uganda with lowest access to clean water close to home. Papua New Guinea is the second lowest in the world at 37%. Uganda is the new addition to the list this year at 38% access to clean, drinkable water.

It is also frightening to know that
• 6800 gallons of water is consumed to make food materials that serve only for 4 persons in a day.
• 20 gallons to make a single pint of beer.
• 4 gallons of water is consumed by mechanical dish washer per cycle which is good because 20 litres are wasted by hand washing practices.
• 78 crore people on the planet have no access to clean water until this day.
• 200 children die every hour due to unsafe water across the globe.
• The most disturbing fact is that one third of the annual expenses incurred for making bottled water is huge enough to complete clean water projects for the entire world for all times.

Our world is a beautiful place and it has sustained everything living on it for millions of years. Human presence has done much damage to it, but still there is a chance to change it. Man has to change the prevailing consumption patterns it has stuck to for long.

Here are some amazing environmental facts that people need to know:

• Human consumption of Earth’s natural resources more than tripled between 1970 and 2015. It will double the 2015 mark by 2050, which is mindboggling.
• The world’s rainforests will be gone by 2100 if the current rate of destruction continues.
• If current patterns continue, the people will have emptied the world’s oceans for seafood by 2050.
• The world population is 215,000 people larger today than it was yesterday.
• 27,000 trees are cut down each day for making Toilet Paper only.
• 75,000 trees can be saved per day if humans recycled the paper used on the daily run of the New York Times alone.
• When plastic bags and other plastic materials are thrown in the ocean, as many as 1 million sea creatures are killed annually.
• An estimated 50,000 species inhabiting our tropical forests become extinct annually. That’s an average of 137 species a day.
• Rainforests are cut down at a rate of 100 acres per minute.

So, by any development parameter, safe, clean potable water being made available round the clock to millions of Indians and foreigners visiting and living in Puri, is no mean achievement. Odisha is going to have more cities and villages in the clean water map sooner than imagined by the usual cynics that keep harping nothing much can ever happen to improve the quality of life in India. Odisha has proved to the contrary. The Naveen administration is truly pro-people, more so pro-poor. Clean water is here for good.

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