In 1995, more than a decade ago, the then Vice President of the World Bank had remarked, “If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water.” Last week, Dr. R. Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, who was at our Coimbatore Campus to inaugurate the national symposium — Water for All — echoed the same dire message. “National security is not just military security,” he said. “It also includes water and energy security, fundamental needs for sustainable development and poverty alleviation.”
Over 300 delegates from industry and academia participated in the two-day symposium. Organized jointly by Amrita in partnership with BARC’s Indian Desalination Association, it was supported by the Tamil Nadu Institute of Urban Studies. Five technical sessions over two days culminated in a panel discussion on how to avoid future water shock. Invited talks and paper presentations discussed various means to address the colossal problem — traditional and modern desalination methods, product delivery and distribution, citizens’ perspectives and government policies.
The welcome address by Dr. R. Subba Rao, Chairperson of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Sciences at Coimbatore outlined a clear view of the impending water crisis. In the inaugural address, Dr. Chidambaram, detailed water initiatives launched by the Indian Government. “This is a very important meeting you are holding here,” he said to the audience. Also attending were the President and Provost of the State University of New York, Buffalo, who were in India to explore ways in which to extend their collaboration with Amrita. The key note address was delivered by Dr. Tewari, President, Indian Desalination Association.
A noteworthy presentation was that of the NGO Siruthuli (Tamil for small drops), which talked about its work in rainwater harvesting that had resulted in an increase in the water table in the area. Also in attendance were Dr. S. Prabhakar, Division Head at BARC and Dr. Kanakasabapathy, Director of TNIUS. Students at our Coimbatore Campus participated in great numbers; they also helped with the organizing of the event. Coincidentally, in her weekly satsang at the Amritapuri ashram this Tuesday, our Chancellor Amma also spoke about the water problem at length; Amma reiterated the need to use water judiciously.
The secretary of the Indian Desalination Association later wrote to Amrita expressing thanks for organizing one of the ‘best national symposiums’ ever. Dr. Prabhakar also expressed similar sentiments in his remarks. “I have no hesitation in stating that the Water for All symposium was a great success embodying a touch of serenity, knowledge and simplicity,” he said. If the enthusiasm of the participants and the solutions proposed are any indication, we can perhaps hope for a more encouraging future. We honor the efforts at Amrita, BARC, TNIUS and all other organizations that are gearing up to tackle this world-wide challenge.
February 11, 2009
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Coimbatore