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Environmental Awareness lecture – The Water Crisis in SA

South Africa is currently experiencing its worst drought in over 30 years. The average summer rainfall statistics have been far less than the norm resulting in vast areas of the country with little or no rain received. This has impacted farming and rural communities where access to drinking water has been a challenge.

On 20 November 2016, BAPS Charities held a lecture around this issue to point out the current state of the drought, its effect on communities and the practical techniques that individuals can employ to conserve water when performing daily routines. A BAPS Charities volunteer with a background in social sciences, presented the lecture. He brought a fresh approach to the topic by supplementing his talk with a discussion on the cultural significance of water over the course of history. 

Following are a few points that were highlighted in his lecture:

  • Cultural – Different cultures have given high reverence and respect to water. Hinduism, in this regard, perceives divinity in the inanimate such as water, due to humanity and Earth’s dependence on it.
  • Current state – The capacities of the various dams in South Africa were pointed out. The Vaal dam, which supplies the state of Gauteng (where majority of the population reside) is only 34.6% full (as of the date of the lecture). Further to that, the reported forecast for rain during this summer season, does not look promising.
  • Impact – The speaker pointed out the dire state of certain communities in South Africa, who are literally suffering from the thirst for water due to the lack of supply.
  • Remedies – A large emphasis was placed on the role and impact that government, communities, and every individual can have on conserving our water reserves by using water discreetly and efficiently. A demonstration was conducted during the lecture where participants were asked to show how they would perform a routine task of washing dishes. A makeshift sink and tap were constructed on stage to facilitate this. The result was entertaining for the audience, but it highlighted how individuals can carelessly use water in such a task. The ideal solution presented, is to keep a consistent low flow of water from the tap and to clean the utensils as quickly as possible.

Other water saving tips given were:

  • Turn the tap off between washing your face, brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Take short 5 minute showers instead of bathing in a bath tub. This can save up to 400 litres of water a week.
  • Use “grey water” (used water from baths, washing machines and other safe sources) to flush a toilet and to water plants.
  • Use a bucket rather than a hose to wash your car.
  • Prayers – The speaker emphasised the importance of taking support of the divine during hard times such as these. He highlighted accounts of how revered saints have resorted to prayers to help bring relief in difficult situations, and the positive outcomes thereafter.

The lecture was well received by the audience, who acknowledged that more can be done on a personal level to conserve water during this crisis. 

At the conclusion of the lecture, BAPS Charities introduced Mr. Amit Prabocharan, a representive from Operation Hydrate. Operation Hydrate is a national initiative to supply water to rural communities within the Johannesburg and surrounding Gauteng areas. Since inception in December 2015, they have managed to donate over 7 million litres of bottled water and commissioned over 30 boreholes thanks to donations received from both public and private sector. 

BAPS Charities acknowledged the tremendous efforts by the volunteers of Operation Hydrate and presented a cheque to the amount of R10,001.00 (USD 720) to Mr. Prabocharan to help further their cause in South Africa.