Dirty, filthy, stinky, polluted, nasty, contaminated, smelly, foul-smelling, rotten – are some of the objectives that we often use for defining our waterbodies these days. But are these being used aptly? For us the water in a cemented water tank is no different from a water in a natural waterbody, isn’t it? But if you give it a second thought, water inside a bottle or a water tank / storage is captive, while the water in a natural waterbody is in its natural habitat.
On 31st May, 2022, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT (BHU) Varanasi & Indo Nordic EU water Forum jointly organised an International Workshop on “Health Restoration of water Bodies in Varanasi” under aegis of India-EU Collaborative Project ‘SPRING’. SPRING is an India-EU joint partnership project that develops integrated water resource management for clean and safe water supply. It’s a part of Horizon 2020, which is the EU and the Government of India joint initiative to invest EUR 40 million (about ₹ 323 Crores) on seven projects for developing methods and technology for making fresh water available.
The difference is in the shift of approach. Dirty is a physical state of an object, while “healthy” or “diseased” is a medical condition of a being. So why are the scientific and academic bodies are changing their perceptions towards waterbodies?
Science is continuously seeking the truth and, in the process, it is widening the horizons of our understanding about the world around us. For example, about 40 years back, there were only three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas, but now there are five states. The two new additions are plasma (super-hot) and Bose-Einstein condensates (super cool). Similarly, today our understanding about waterbodies have also come a long way.
Today, in the academic and scientific community, waterbodies are not longer considered merely pool or storage of water, but we look at them as a “service provider of ecosystem services” for all terrestrial life forms and the environment, effecting all the three layers of groundwater, soil, and air. They have a role in regulating the terrestrial temperature during both summers and winter seasons. They help in pollution mitigation too and help maintain a healthy ecology in soil, water and air. They have a role in flood and drought mitigation too. They are also directly linked to biodiversity conservation. And many more such ecosystem services that help the flora-fauna, ornithology, limnology, entomology and overall ecology too.
It's high time for the administration also to start building this understanding towards waterbodies, for their sustainable use and maintaining their good healthy condition in the interest of all life forms. But even if they take it from the human health perspective, we must note that a diseased waterbody will on spread diseases (waterborne and vectorborne) in the vicinity, while a healthy waterbody will not just mitigate the public health issues, but also help building natural immunity amongst the human population living around the waterbody.