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Green Business Ideas – Sell water at the price of petrol – and reap the ‘fringe’ benefits.

03 Aug

While the United Nations and the top environmental organization around the world are working non-stop to spread the knowledge on the importance of Food and Water, their success in limited. The reason is simple. They haven’t yet shown the money making aspect of it.

Selling water is the Next big business which can make a pauper a King in the coming years. In this article, I shall attempt to give a few ideas of how to amass the wealth. But before that let me set the perspective.

It is a common knowledge that the World’s fresh water is only 3% of the total available water. 97% of the water on Earth is salt water. Of the 3%, water found at the Earth’s surface in lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and swamps makes up only 0.3% of the world’s fresh water! 68.7% of the fresh water on Earth is trapped in glaciers. 30% of fresh water is under the ground.

It is also a fact that the World is heading towards a Food crisis, with the World population heading 9 Billion strong and slated to grow, despite the Climate change due to Global Warming. And it must be fed. And to grow food one needs fertile land and water. And therefore one does not need anyone to have an IQ above 300 to deduce the situation as DIRE. As with ever increasing unplanned Urban sprawl, land use change  is happening at break-neck speed, which paves over fertile agricultural land into “housing plots”  and in the process pushing the agricultural land either into virgin forests or less cultivable areas where only meagre existence is possible, possibly because of a lake or pond near by, which fills up during monsoon. But as soon as these areas becomes habitable, being at the Urban fringe the sale value of land far outstrips the reason to maintain it for agriculture. Thus lakes and ponds along with small rivulets get filled up and paved over to create another concrete jungle.

In the sate of Maharashtra, India; 5000  Villages do not have a drop of Water. Similar are the tales in other states of India. They have to rely everyday for water-bearing tankers for even the very basic need of cooking and hygiene.Almost all the big metropolis bring water to the city by denying the rightful owners of the lakes in far-off villages; Delhi 300 Km , Mumbai 100km. Almost 80% of the people living in the City of Mumbai have no idea about the source of the potable water reaching their homes daily – river Bathsa , Vaitarna, are names  not known to many.

A south  Mumbai ( posh) locality girl when asked on TV about the source of the water, considers that water comes from the tap ! Sure it does so that one can have a pool party while the people of the villages near the rivers and lakes, which feed the cities walk around 1000 KM per year, just to collect drinking water. Some need to walk as much as 5KM per day. As it is not possible for a mother to carry all the water required, they press into service girl-child as small as 8-10 yrs old to help collect water!

Before the British ruled India, in the Kingdom of Mysore (a district near Bangalore, Karnataka, India ) had around 40,000 lakes. The Maharaja of Mysore used to spend from his treasury 50% of the expense required and the other 50% came from the villagers either in form of money or labour for the up-keep of these water bodies.As there was involvement of all, there was a sense of belonging among the people and the lakes thrived. With the fall of Tipu Sultan, the British started to rule the state. Among many atrocities, the greatest folly they committed was that while they taxed the people of the state for use of water, they did not contribute in either up-keep or creation of new water bodies. This led to people slowly lose the bond they had with the lakes and ponds and in time they were lost. The story was the same all over India under British rule. At one time New Delhi boasted of nearly 800 ponds. In time Indians valued land more than water, and price of land with modern times rose to such an extreme that today we see ponds and lakes as prime real estate, waiting to be filled up and built upon !

As surface water bodies were destroyed, we in our need of water, dug deeper and deeper bore-wells reaching to the very bed-rock. We have sucked out water to such an extent without keeping any provision for replenishment that almost all our Megalopolis have scarcity of water. Mumbai has a short-fall of 1.8 Million litre of water per day!

We have even managed to empty the underground water table. It takes 100,000 years  for rainfall to percolate and fill a water table!

Our  lackadaisical attitude, combined with greed and ignorance is such a heady cocktail that today we have been able to completely kill 600KM of the sacred river Yamuna ( all other Indian rivers have more or less the same fate) so much so that the water flowing in it is nothing but discharge from the sewers of New Delhi which reaches the holiest city of Vrindawan. Not content with that, the Industrial Estate which were set up at the fringe of the Megalopolises; with complete disregard to rules and in connivance with State the Pollution Board & Environment officials dig deep-bore wells and discharge highly toxic waste into the water table. Substance like Arsenic, Fluorides, Lead, Mercury and Cadmium either go into the Rivers directly or into the ground-water table. It has been found that around certain regions of Delhi, the Spinach which is grown and considered a very healthy food, has a few 100 times more than the “permissible” ( a corrupt corporate practice followed all around the world ) limit as envisaged under the food & drug act and the pollution control board.

And we all know that, lead -arsenic-mercury-cadmium poisoning can not be good for the health.  Yet, successive governing agencies have not only allowed industrial discharge into the rivers and aquifers, but have been lax in checking or finding a solution more conducive. Furthermore treated industrial water, foolishly thought to have been completely decontaminated is used for irrigation, thus permanently poisoning not only the area around the industrial waste but everywhere and everyone who come in contact with the food or food product around the Country.

This knowledge is slowly percolating down the thoughts of the common person through sustained campaign by NGO’s. And they are starting to ask questions to the administration which in India has a default setting of being reactionary rather than pro-active. The link in above image  tells us how much percentage of water is safe drinking water.

But the problem is that we have exploited the water system to such an extent, we are left with nothing to fall back on. Today, it is shameful to call our Nation a progressive one because more than 80% of India still depends on the yearly rain-fall to grow crops. We have made a hash of our irrigation scheme and decontaminating our rivers. And the recent irrigation scam unearthed has perhaps taken us back by decades in this effort.

Simply put, without fresh water life is not possible. Because whatever age of civilization we might happen to be, the 3 basics – Food, Clothing & Shelter would stay in same order of importance. And for growing food we need WATER.

Therefore the best Green Business Idea today for millions of Rural Indians would be to create their own village comity and practice the age-old wisdom of capturing rain-water. The famous stepped-well of the western India to the lakes and ponds which belonged to the village community should be revamped.

So what is the revolutionary idea in it? Every water expert worth his salt has written tomes of books on it. Well, as per my knowledge goes no one has written about what I am suggesting.

Declare water as a “cash crop” and “essential commodity”. Price each liter of water to the same price of Petrol! Allow it to be traded in the stock market and let market forces govern it. While protecting the poor and the economically weaker section through grants and subsidy, as it has been doing for petroleum products.

Lets look at a few hypothesis –

The moment the government announces a scheme that it shall pay for conservation  of water and allow for trade of lets say 500 million liters of water per day say  at Rupees 10/ litre of water from every rural district of India to feed the city and industries, within one year each and every dried and neglected pond and lake would be spruced up in every village across India with each villager eagerly awaiting the advent of monsoon.

The village panchayats ( elected administrative body) would not allow any pilferage of  funds, which happens in the grandest scale in India and actually build the water reservoirs. It would also ensure that plantation of trees do take place and stop the denudation of the rain-forest, which is principal in retaining the ground water and reduces evaporation.

Let us now take the water requirement of Mumbai. The city’s water requirementis  4250mld. (million liters per day ).  However, it receives only 3,350mld. Six lakes in and around Mumbai supply water to the city. Upper Vaitarna supplies 630mld, Modaksagar 455mld, Tansa 407mld, Vihar 110mld, Tulsi 18mld and Bhatsa 1,900mld. However, 20% of the supply (or 600mld) is lost due to leakages and theft. Moreover, the supply from Vihar and Tulsi lakes is mainly used for industrial purposes.

And what would happen should the government increase the tariff to Rupees 30 /per litre ? The land-sharks who grab prime land meant for parks would be booted out of cities along with their political protectors and citizens would comply with zeal and gusto all municipal directives for rain water harvesting and ground water recharge within their residential societies. Recycle of grey and  black water would become norm. For no water guzzling Indian citizen would like to pay that kind of price for water. They would be better off having their own supply and earn a few million form the government scheme by petitioning it to make it applicable to them too. After all why should the villagers have all the fun?

And if the tariff be raised to Rupees 50/per litre ? Corporates would kick into action and innovation in building design and town planning would be in the lines of building sustainable cities. The unplanned Urban sprawl would be arrested and pristine open ground, parks and lakes within the city limits would become norm. Rivers would get cleaned up and offending industries and municipalities penalized.

Further not only the city dwellers would save the precious water but actually find the ways to trade in water. Just as the large oil tankers berth into our ports, so would Indian water tankers berth into theirs, pumping out the precious water for  the dry and parched countries, which have also been growing in size and population. And desalinated water may be less a requirement, when the exchange rate between the Indian Rupee vs their money is factored. Indian water could turn out to be a cheaper option.

For long experts have been asking governments to charge the actual tariff for water. Now, one can not only think of doing so, but actually be applauded for the effort. And in the process save the total ecosystem.

While with my limited knowledge I may not have got the concept right, but I am sure that experts in the World who understand money and geo-politics would find some currency in this idea because –

A few years ago, the BMC (municipal corporation of Mumbai city) had ambitiously proposed to the state government to draw water from phase II of the Koyna dam in Chiplun (Ratnagiri district), about 300km from Mumbai. The proposal to draw water from the Koyna dam may give 1,69,800 million litres of water on an annual basis to the city as well surrounding regions like Thane and Raigad. According to the state government’s plan, the project would cost about Rs40,000 crore.  According to officials of the water supply and sanitation department, the government discharges about 1,69,800 million litres of water from the Koyna dam to the Vashishthi river at Chiplun after generating power. The state government’s water supply and sanitation department had  decided to undertake the project on a build-and-operate basis. It had invited interest bids to which 12 companies have responded.

As one can see from above, the business of water is a superb business. But it is only understood by a few and exploited for good measure. There would be absolutely no doubt in the minds of ordinary Indians that of the Rs 400,000,000,000 a huge amount would line the pockets of many. While the rightful owner for right of first use to the water – people residing in Chiplun – would be denied even drinking water.

So would it not be possible that similar humongous amount of money be used for some of the concepts I have proposed above ? If the government could find and make popular the Renewable Energy Scheme under the National Action Plan for Climate Change; of the 8 action plan one is for Water !

In this planet the only thing that we human understand is money. Gold &    Black Gold    (petroleum) is hoarded because it has a stupendous price tag. Make water equally costly, give it the respect it deserves. Because, neither Gold nor petroleum can quench thirst! And it is important that all of us recognize this problem. For the very existence of civilization is dependent on it.

 
 

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5 responses to “Green Business Ideas – Sell water at the price of petrol – and reap the ‘fringe’ benefits.

  1. earthstonestation

    August 4, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    water will be more precious than oil in the not to distant future. Who would have thought that people would be paying for small bottles of water just a few decades ago. Great post with lots of important info. Hope you can spread the word.

     
  2. James Greyson (@blindspotting)

    August 3, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    Who would help thirsty poor people?
    Can commodifcation can help with a problem caused by commodification?

     
    • Oyeta936

      August 3, 2012 at 3:11 PM

      Thank you for commenting Mr.Greyson. While the point you have raised is true, in India ( perhaps ) the rest of the world, sociopolitical reality would not allow the poor to be charged for the water. If you read the article, my suggestion is wealth creation for the poor.
      Because both land and lakes /rivers are found abundantly in a rural setting than in any Indian metropolis. Further, to harvest water and benefit from it the existing forest and lakes/rivers would survive.
      It is from them the State would buy water, while it would also need to subsidies ( as they do with kerosene, diesel ) the cost for the poor.
      Lastly I do not say I have found the perfect solution for the world or for India, but through engagement and exchange of ideas we just might be. Having said that, I will see if some edits to the article itself is possible to clarify the point.

       

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