I could try to tell you that this is the first blog post I have ever written, but I think (although it is now only a hazy memory) that I must have written a few in my old job. Those blogs were about winter sports and cycling, whereas these are absolutely not. Well, they might be at some point, with the Hanningfield Triathlon looming!
To kick things off, I thought I would post the very first (short) essay I wrote when I embarked on my journey into the world of water, which also happened to win me a bursary and a fancy networking evening. The essay is a reflection on my experience of water and sanitation living in India for a short time.
The Influence of the East
by Lucy Irons
Three months living and working in India will turn your preconceptions, ideals and general understanding of the world inside out, stretch it to the limits and then finally leave you feeling very dizzy. The first question you may wish to ask might be along the lines of “What has this got to do with water?” The simple answer is that this experience, and a subsequent 8 months back packing, opened my eyes to a world that exists outside, yet parallel to my own. In this world, basic requirements such as adequate sanitation and clean drinking water are not acceptable, with detrimental effects to the local populations.
Bangalore is a thriving and rapidly expanding city in southern India, frequently dubbed the Indian Silicon Valley due to the vast number of IT companies that lie in and around the city. The different zones within the city perfectly demonstrate the disparity in sanitation facilities. The central zones featured a mix of old and new architecture, all with flushing toilets (with the highly efficient bidet hose attachment) and a constant supply of water through taps. As you headed out from the centre toward the ring roads you could see a marked deterioration in the quality of both the infrastructure and sanitation facilities. A common site in these areas were small plots of land in between dwellings that had been adopted as a site to dump both rubbish and to use as a squat toilet. Children could often be seen playing on these plots. The charity school that I was working for took children from these very areas and the first thing that they would teach them was the importance of sanitation, they would then be able to go home and tell there parents.
During the three month duration of my stay in Bangalore I experienced rain only once. This, of course, is a feature of any country that is governed by the monsoon seasons. Under these conditions the drainage and supply system has to be able to cope with long periods of heavy run-off followed by long periods of drought. Thankfully, large cities such as Bangalore have good sized reservoirs to help them through the drought periods. On a visit to one of these reservoirs, whilst being impressed by the vastness, I also experienced one of the most shocking, juxtaposing sights I have ever seen. Set next to the reservoir was a fountain park; a dazzling display of dancing shoots of water, lit and moving in time to classical music. The crystal clear water and beautiful layout showed off the technical and design expertise of its creators. They had, however, overlooked one thing; the public conveniences. The only toilet block in the park hadn’t any running water, neither to cleanse your hands nor to flush the waste. You could however, choose to pay for a pot of water from an outside trough filled with a murky looking liquid, quite different from the water flying about just meters away.
With a solid background in Physics my experiences from exploring the world have brought me to an understanding that the topics surrounding water, from the socio-political to the treatment and processing, are key to creating a better future for generations to come