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   When the Rivers Run Dry
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
08 Mar 2010

A world tour of hydrological madness

If ever I were to write a book on water, this could be the one. When the Rivers Run Dry seems an unfinished title for an unflinching look at the current water crises across the world. Fred Pearce, an accomplished science writer, elucidates the remaining half of the title in ten riveting sections to the book. Based on author's travels across thirty countries, the book provides most complete portrait of growing hydrological crises and its widespread ramifications for us all.

Pearce contends that the West is committing hydrological suicide with its water 'footprint'. One ton of water for drinking, about 50 to 100 tons around the home and as much as 2,000 tons to grow the crops that feed and clothe a person during a year cannot sustain humanity for long. And if you buy a t-shirt made of Pakistani cotton, eat Thai rice or drink coffee from Costa Rica, you may be helping reduce flow in the Indus, the Mekong and in the Amazon. Called 'virtual water trade', it uses about 1,000 cubic kilometers of water annually or the equivalent of 20 River Niles.

It really is as stark as that. Pearce has gone to great lengths to show the reader what has gone wrong with our civic and personal attitude to water use the world over, and by highlighting some of these diminishing or dried up water sources, we must rethink our actions. The immensely readable prose is no simple manual for the consumer to be less wasteful in the home; it is about such compelling facts that make the case for a new water ethos. Pearce takes the reader to often unheard of places to pepper his text with reflection, often presenting both the micro and the macro picture at the same time.

The facts and narrative create powerful imagery that is backed by penetrating analyses and passionate advocacy. It is investigative journalism at its best, advising the world's governments to stop focusing on the money and instead look at the best interests of the world's rivers, wetlands and aquifers. Pearce' dogged research and writing teaches the reader something 'new' on a subject that may be grossly known. And he is not a doomsayer because he highlights the efforts being made the world over to reclaim fresh water too. Just read it!

When the Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce, Beacon Press, Boston, 324 pages, Rs 299

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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