Saturday, February 7, 2009

WATER The Elixir of Life

E n v I r o n m e n t

W a t e r : T h e e l I x I r of l I f e

Through the ages, man has sought in vain for an imaginary elixir of life, the divine Amrita. A draught of amrita was thought to confer immortality. But the true elixir of life lies near our hands. It is the commonest of all liquids. It is the plain water. C V Raman, the famous scientist recollects the day he was standing on the line which separates the Libyan Desert from the valley of the Nile in Egypt. On one side was visible a sea of billowing sand without any life and on the other side lay one of the greatest, most fertile and densely populated areas to be found any where on the earth. It was teeming with life and vegetation. It was due to the water of the river Nile. The ancient civilization of Egypt was created and sustained by the life giving waters which comedown year after year with unfailing regularity. C V Raman gives this example to emphasize that the common water is the most potent and the most wonderful thing on the face of our earth. There is nothing which aids so much to the beauty of the country side as water. It may be just a little stream trickling over the rocks or it may be a little pond by the way side where the cattle quench their thirst of an evening. The rain fed tanks that are so common in south India play a vital role in south Indian agriculture. It is a lovely sight to sea the sun rise or sunset over one of them. Water in a landscape may be compared to the eyes of a human face. It reflects the mood of an hour, being bright and gay when the sun shines. It turns to dark and gloomy when the sky is overcast. Therefore, C V Raman compares water in a landscape to the eyes in a human face.
One of the most remarkable facts about water is its power to carry silt. This is the origin of the characteristic color of the water in rain fed tanks. The soil formed by silt thus deposited is very fertile. The flow of water can also play a destructive part and wash away the soil which is the foundation of all agriculture. If it is allowed to proceed unchecked, it will show the most disastrous effects on the life of our country. The problem of soil erosion is one of the serious problems in various countries and especially in many parts of India. Soil erosion occurs in successive steps. It gradually washes away the earth, making agriculture impossible. A sudden burst of excessively heavy rain is one of the principal factors in causing soil erosion. It can be checked by terracing of the land, construction of bunds to check the flow of water, the practice of contour cultivation and the planting of appropriate types of vegetation. The aim should be to check the flow of the water at earliest possible stage before it acquires momentum and cause destruction.
Every living creature on earth contains a substantial proportion of water in its body and no physiological activity is possible without water. The conservation and utilization of water is thus fundamental for human welfare. The problems of soil erosion and of inadequate or irregular rainfall are closely connected with each other. So the adoption of techniques preventing soil erosion would also help to conserve the water. Much of the rainfall flows down into the streams and rivers and ultimately finds its way to the sea. The harnessing of our rivers can result in transforming vast areas of land into fertile land. A forestation is another problem in India. The systematic planting of trees is one of the most urgent needs of India. They would check soil erosion and conserve the rainfall of the country and would provide the necessary supplies of cheap fuel. The cheapest form of internal transport in a country is by boats through canals and rivers. The harnessing of water supplies also makes possible the development of hydroelectric power. It would bring about tremendous changes in rural economy and would enable to tap the ground water. So water is not only the commonest of liquids, but also the most uncommon of liquids. With amazing properties, water is responsible for its unique power of maintaining animal and plant life. Therefore the investigation of the nature and properties of water is of highest scientific interest.

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