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September 9, 2010 / pkdhodapkar

Safe drinking water: Then and now

Visitors to the City Palace in Jaipur come across a huge silver vessel. The guide informs that the vessel was used by the royal family to carry drinking water during voyages. Imagine all the resources and efforts required just to carry the drinking water around! In absence of any technological alternatives, it was prudent to stick to the familiar- carry your own drink.

Times have changed, and technology has made access to safe drinking water everywhere, to everyone (well, almost) at reasonable cost. So you can have water when you travel (in palstic pouches), when you entertain large number of guests (in plastic jerrycans) , etc. You can have different sizes of packaging, and of course, there are premium brands of packaged water available.

Alas, this means that there is an additional cost to be borne by everyone (Call it a social or environmental cost, whatever you like), that of disposing off a huge amount of plastic in a suitable manner. Looks like nobody cares, and we come across the ugly sight of waste plastic littering the urban as well as rural landscape. Economists explain this using terms such as “market failure” or “the tragedy of the commons”. Well, that’s another topic altogether.

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