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This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

March 14, 2009

The new Blue Gold?

Around the same time last year (20th march 2008 to be precise) I visited the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi to inquire about the Conferencing facilities for an International Business event planned by Milagrow. What surprised me most was the apparent ease with which I and my excolleague & friend (Anurag Vijaywat) slipped in without being frisked or checked in this heavily guarded complex. ‘Water’ was the main theme of the event that day, I guess they were celebrating World water day 2008 in the main conference hall and that brings me to this blog piece.

It is a known fact that 97% of our planet is salt water, 3% is pure water which is sufficient for all species on earth if you factor in Annual rainfall. It also sustains a $35 Billion a year market for global bottled water market. Blame it partly on the major commodity bull run that we witnessed recently and some to the growing scarcity in some parts of the globe especially major cities, the new questions being asked are; Is water the new oil (Knowledge@wharton)? Is it what speculators now call it- the new blue gold?

A trend has started in USA where water speculators have started to buy large tracts of land to gain control over aquifers. A report in Business week some time back talked of T Boons Pickens (a former corporate raider) buying 68000 acres of Texas land that holds substantial underground water reserve. The article goes on to say how Pickens could be the single largest individual water owner in USA. Call him the ‘water baron’ or ‘commodity raider’ or whatever but he surely has plans to sell lots of it especially to Dallas by transporting almost 65 billion gallons a year over 250 miles. It may soon happen in India too , Anil Ambani & his new found penchant for Natural resources (RNRL) may soon find out that India too has large tracts of wasteland & plenty of water below it . Actually ONGC is already on it, billed as “ONGC Project Saraswati” , the company as a part of its CSR is aiming to find deep acquifers in Rajasthan. The project is Aptly named after the mythical river , that some believe vanished after the desertification of Thar Area.

Water is also becoming a main issue in the geopolitical relations not only within the country but surrounding it too. So not only are states like Karnataka-Tamil Nadu, Haryana-Punjab,TN-Kerala are warring over this issue but also India-Pakistan (Indus barrage),India –Bangladesh (Ganges), India –Nepal and recently China has come into purview. China’s growing interest in Arunachal Pradesh & its annexation of Tibet is being linked to the acute water shortage it’s facing in the mainland. Unlike India which has 9.56% of its surface area covered with water china has just 2.8%. With rapid urbanization it requires humongous amounts of water which it partly got by controlling 1700 Km of the Yangbo river which is the Tibetian part of the Brahmaputra. The remaining 2900Km of this river flows into India through Arunachal Pradesh which experts believe it’s now eying through territorial dispute.

In India water supply is sadly a state subject and therefore grossly mismanaged. The water pricing like any state utility is heavily subsidized & therefore results in under recovery of operating & capital outlay costs. Water like electricity also faces distribution losses upto 70% due to faulty supply pipes & leakages but yet nothing spurs the system for efficiency & conservation. It is another known fact that in major cities in India, the tanker mafia who are hand in gloves with local municipal authorities influence water supply in certain areas and create water shortages to enable their trade to flourish. As I am writing this we are already grappling with this shortage in my Apartment & summer has just begun.
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