Water woes (The Statesman (Pakistan))

It is a strange situation indeed when the “Saudi Arabia of water”, Brazil, blessed with the world’s largest amount of fresh water, mulls imposing rationing of water to its residents. That is what authorities of Sao Paulo are contemplating this, in one of Brazil’s largest cities. Residents are upset and justifiably so. Reports say that schools have asked students not to brush their teeth with water and have resorted to providing sandwiches for lunch instead of meals so that they do not have to wash plates. Residents have also begun digging their own wells at homes and a parallel grey market selling water is now in place. What went wrong, especially when Brazil is blessed with rivers like the Amazon and abundant fresh water resources? Scientists point the finger at pollution and deforestation. A country that has witnessed unchecked, unplanned industrial growth, with industries releasing effluents into rivers and other water bodies, they say, has deeply damaged the ecosystem. Rampant deforestation has meant that rainfall is now scarce. The humidity caused by the forests which turns into rain clouds is almost nonexistent now. In Brazil, climate change can be seen excruciatingly clearly.
When environmental laws are not implemented stringently and in tandem with industrial growth, the price paid by citizens is often too basic to counter. Brazil’s have shown the world just that. No one benefits in the long run when trees are indiscriminately cut down and when oceans and rivers are treated as sewer systems. Our most precious commodities air, water and food become the first casualties, many times, irreversibly so. Brazil is certainly in for troubled times ahead as unrest builds amongst its residents. Perhaps a law such as the one passed by Bolivia, giving legal rights to the earth’s natural resources, would go a long way toward changing the mindsets of the lawmakers and industry towards pollution. Stringent action to check pollution is the need of the hour, although it could take decades to undo the existing damage. Brazil also comes as a lesson for countries like Australia and India, where new governments are sacrificing important environmental legislation and concerns in the pursuit of quick growth.