Thursday, January 7, 2010

Delhi's Water Woes: Is this the best way?

We’d just attended a book launch at Delhi’s Foreign Correspondents' Club, and I’d had my share of rum, cake and paneer tikka.  I was feeling good, but as we searched for an auto, I wished I’d worn a sweater under my light coat; during the summer months, we long for the winter, but in December when weather blows in from the north, Delhi nights can be hard.

Like a lot of Delhi streets, the service lane on Mathura Road is being dug up to make way for
new water pipes.  As an environmentalist, I know this is an inconvenient but necessary fact of life.  Today's Hindu reminds us of how much water we are loosing due to our lack of good water infrastructure.  As things stand, far too people have access to piped water at all, and as Delhi expands, this problem will only increase.   Good infrastructure improves our city's quality of life and minimizes waste.  It is money well spent.

As we approached the long ditch, we saw two workers, bathing at the side of the road. Yes, we see working men bathe outside every day in Delhi.  But to see it at 9:30 PM on a cold night like that made me angry.  When US officials talk tough with India and China about our climate change commitments, do they understand how it is that our our per capita carbon emissions are so terribly low already?  It’s not because of efficient power plants--we have few of those.  It's certainly not because our rich and powerful believe in austerity, either.   It’s because millions of working men and women bathe in the cold, live outside throughout the winter. 
We walked by silently.  After a time, my friend said, “Well, it’s probably not as cold as the water we get from our tank at home.”  What could I say?  We both knew it was just a polite way to avoid more uncomfortable questions.

Is this the best way we can build our tall buildings?

Is this the best way we can lay our good pipes?

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