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Paradox of water shortages along with contaminated water for some

Paradox of water shortages along with contaminated water for some

Dr. George Zachariah, India, holdes a handkerchief as a gas mask. At Ecumenical Institute, Bossey, 2014. © Helen Putsman/WCC

22 April 2015

For Dr George Zachariah the day after Christmas day just over 10 years ago was when the lethal tsunami waves arrived that resulted in hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost and millions losing their livelihoods.

“The scars of the Tsunami are yet to be healed,” rues Dr Zachariah who teaches Christian Ethics at United Theological College in Bangalore.

He notes that the dominant narratives explained the tsunami as a natural calamity, and blamed overpopulation as the reason for the magnitude of the disaster.

But he says a counter-narrative exposes a systemic sin that causes the metamorphosis of “living waters” into killer waves that devour lives.

“The coastal regions of these countries were invaded by a different type of tsunami which prepared the way for the 2004 Tsunami. Globalization has invaded them in the form of commercial tourism and aquaculture,” he says.

Tourist resorts and hotels conquered the coast line destroying the tropical mangrove forests, one of the world’s most important ecosystems.

Mangrove swamps have been nature’s protection for the coastal regions from the large waves.

The habitats of the traditional fisher people have been converted into tourist resorts and shrimp farms. Thousands of hectares of mangrove forests and other bushes were cleared to make the resorts beautiful for the tourists.

It is also just over 30 years since the Bhopal industrial disaster in India when hundreds of thousands of people were injured by gas. Dr Zachariah also sees this as a disaster relating to water.

He finds it paradoxical that for many people in India life giving water is not available and at the same time bad water is killing people.

A group of 17 people, most of them theologians, but also lawyers and an engineer met at the Ecumenical Institute, Bossey, Switzerland, in a theological consultation on water justice from 8-11 December 2014 to develop a theological framework for water justice. Along with students at Bossey, some of the group told Peter Kenny about the issue of water in the context of their regions, nations and local areas.