Felix Ryan* was sent to Somalia in 1984 by the ILO of the UNO to help the refugees who had mostly migrated from Ethiopia. He saw a nomad family of 15 members arriving on camel backs, stricken by poverty, hunger and thirst. The riders descended from the camels and the headman went a distance away. He slew an arrow into the camel’s stomach. Immediately a mother with her baby ran up to the camel, pulled out the arrow and the baby sucked the oozing blood. After that other children and elders sucked the blood to quench their thirst in the scorching heat. Similar situations prevailed in some other places and in extreme cases the thirsty humans resorted to drinking camel’s urine. This shows how acute the shortage of clean drinking water in our world actually is!

The seacoast, just a mile away broke its waves in rhythmic sounds day and night against the shore. But that large water body cannot quench human thirst. Felix Ryan began with simple informal experiments to desalinate sea water. After several efforts, he succeeded to produce desalinated water on a large scale for distribution to thousands of thirsty people. This expensive and time-consuming affair, however, has its own latent consequences. It also produces pollutants harmful to the environment.

Our own country India has the highest number of people in the world without access to safe drinking water. Those 75.8 million people come from impoverished communities (Water Aid Report 2016). Our city slums witness each day the long serpentine queues of colorful plastic containers for water to flow or even trickle from public water taps. In our villages women and children walk long distances to fetch water and carry the pots on their heads or shoulders.

The privileged rich dig their own bore wells deeper each year, build large underground tanks and use electric water pumps to lift water into the overhead tanks which in turn runs into homes. Many of us belong to this category and we hardly think of the need of the poor for this life-giving resource while overusing and wasting water for our own domestic use.
Every drop of water counts and needs to be saved.

Tourism, construction and other industries grab a huge proportion of available water. Not only that but they also contribute to water pollution destroying our lakes, rivers and even the oceans. In the city of Bangalore, Lake Bellandur is filled with garbage dumping and industrial waste, so much that the pollutants raise clouds of white froth above the water surface that flows out into the roads and frequently catch fire.

Polluted water is recognized as the world’s no. 1 killer, causing a myriad of sicknesses. It sends millions of children to graves even before they reach the age of five the world over, largely in the developing countries of the two-thirds world.

We need to find ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and replenish water. We are appointed by God as the stewards to care for and nurture the created world according to the Creation narrative (Genesis Ch. 1). We are also called to serve our generation in our own lifetime. We need to preserve the rights of the future generations as well. This is a Biblical Mandate. In one of His teachings Jesus said to the righteous, “I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink” (Mathew 25: 31-46). When He sent out His disciples, He had announced that even a cup of water given to you, will not go unrewarded (Mathew 10:42). Jesus, the creator of the universe quenched the spiritual thirst of the Samaritan woman and millions others. In His dying moments from the cross, He cried out “I thirst”. Do we hear that cry of Jesus who experienced enormous spiritual anguish and unspeakable physical agony for the salvation of humanity? He was thirsty for this water.

Our country is punctuated all over by hundreds of EUs, EGFs, decentralized state UESIs, ETFs, EMFIs and other offshoots of the UESI ministry. God in His mercies has made the UESI a great source of blessing to our nation over the last seven decades. We need to include and bring to the forefront the issues facing humanity in our conversations with respect to environmental crisis, its causes, consequences, related discrimination patterns, social exclusion, conflicts and remedies. The task is enormous yet it is possible to revert, God being our Helper, since this environmental crisis is almost entirely man-made. Is not this a part of our calling to be the Salt and the Light to our World?

Ryan Felix (2005). How to Convert Sea Water into Drinking Water, 2nd edition. ActionAid: Books for Change, Bangalore.

Augusta Paul is a retired lecturer in Sociology and Biblical Studies. At present she is engaged in NLT Bible translation in Gujarati. She lives at Bangalore with her husband Thomas Paul. They have three adult daughters and two grandchildren.

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