WATER MANAGEMENT: A TRIBUTE TO WANGARI MAATHAI

water managementWater… what comes to mind when your hear the term ‘water’? I don’t know about you, but I feel the pleasant sensation of cool pool water against my skin…aaah… I see clean dishes neatly stacked on the rack; I imagine my nostrils filled with the pleasant smell of freshly washed laundry; I relish the quenching feel of cool water caressing my dry throat… and rain? What pops in your head when you hear, ‘rain’? I see rivers flowing… water cascading down mountainsides; I see green grass; I see flowers blooming…hear bees buzzing, hovering above them… pollinating. I see beautiful trees lining the path leading to my house; I see succulent mangoes hanging from tree branches, whispering, “Take a bite, take a bite”… now imagine, if all this was just a dream; musings of a person stuck in a deserted area, where it only rains in their vivid imagination of what once was…

When I see water, I see life; I think of the fundamental function water plays in our lives. Simply put; take life, subtract water and see what you’re left with. The results would be dehydration, barren land carpeted with skeletons of animals that died of starvation; scrawny babies lying lethargically on their mothers’ laps because hunger rendered them too weak to play or cry for food; a deafening silence and an eerie sight of life painted against a backdrop of yellows, browns and oranges, because the absence of rain did away with the beautiful green that depicts life. Absolute desertification! Thinking about it just makes me shudder; I feel like I was in some twilight zone, a bad dream that I couldn’t wait to wake up from…

I throw a quick glance outside my window, and I see children playing energetically, so I know they’re healthy- in their own rights. I don’t see tall trees because there are towering buildings adjacent to my house; but there are beautiful flowerbeds all around houses in my court, and a while ago I saw roads lined with beautiful trees in my estate when I was coming from the grocery store… there’s water to nourish life, for the moment…

It gladdens my heart to see all the things I can do with water, but I can’t help feeling distressed at the same time; will it be like this forever? Will my children and their children get to enjoy all this?  Forests are being cleared to make room for human settlement; alarming numbers of trees are being felled for purposes of burning charcoal, lumbering, paper making and all the other conceivable activities that require trees as an ‘ingredient’… but this is hardly the problem; the principal challenge is that while many see the need to cut down trees, only a few realize the importance of planting more.

I’m reminded of Wangari Maathai, an environmental and political activist, and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She was a highly educated woman, who didn’t find anything odd with working with her hands, often with her knees on the ground alongside other rural woman. People ridiculed her for it, but that didn’t deter her from doing all she could to conserve the environment; to protect the planet the best way she could, by planting trees.

It pained her immensely that everyone was cutting down trees and no one was planting. She didn’t just preach water while drinking wine, as she founded the Green Belt Movement- an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation and women’s rights- that has planted over 47 million trees worldwide.

I read a few of her quotes, which I felt I should share:

“Anybody can dig a hole and plant a tree. But make sure it survives. You have to nurture it, you have to water it, you have to keep at it until it becomes rooted so it can take care of itself. There are so many enemies of trees. ” – Wangari Maathai.

“If we can send man to the moon, why can we not plant a tree?”-Wangari Maathai.

“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.”-Wangari Maathai.

She was indeed a dexterous woman, a leader who patently led by example… she’s no more now. All we have are the echoes of her shrewd words. I doubt I’ll plant as many trees as she did, but I’ll do all in my power to conserve the environment; even if it’s only by encouraging people from all corners of the world to do it from behind my desk, punching keys on my keyboard.

Earnestly i have no intentions of labouring points here, but for the sake of reminding you the relation between trees and water management, I’ll just mention how tree planting helps:

Planting trees and woods in water catchment areas can help lessen the effects and risks of flooding.

Trees help improve water infiltration. If more water goes into the ground, less is washed away as surface water run-off. This is particularly important in urban areas, where we have the hardest surfaces, such as car parks, pavements, roads and buildings.

By planting trees on flood plains, woods can help lessen the effects of large floods by absorbing and delaying the release of flood flows.

Planting trees can delay the speed at which water enters drains and rivers.

Trees also help regulate our atmosphere, store carbon and release precious oxygen.

I’m presuming that a huge majority thinks the world can’t run out of water; with all the water in the vast oceans, dams, lakes… with all the rain falling, with floods leaving families homeless in its wake, all that water? There’s no way it would run out…would it?

I recently watched a video- water crisis: a letter written in 2070- on youtube that freaked me out majorly. In a nutshell, it shows that if we don’t start doing things differently, the world will have no water by the year 2070.  It sounds somewhat impossible, but if the knowledge I have of the water levels in some natural lakes I know reducing remarkably is anything to go by, then I know it is possible.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a party in depleting the water in the world. I would love for my grandchildren to eat healthy farm-grown  food; I would want them to play in the rain (not with my consent), even if only for a second; I would want them to know how relaxing it feels to take a plunge in a swimming pool; I would definitely want them to get access to the required eight glasses of water daily; I would want  for them to play in the shower, trying to make a swimming pool in the bathroom like I once tried years ago with some help from my sister and a cousin who I don’t see eye to eye with anymore… we got ourselves into unmitigated trouble but the excitement…? It was worth it.

 

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