I wonder if anyone has noticed how broadcast media these days is overflowing with commercials related to beverages? Before the onset of summer, viewers are getting more than an eyeful of ads 24/7 related to fizzy drinks and energy drinks. That strikes me as odd especially in a country where large chunks of the population are clamouring for provision of clean drinking water. Shouldn’t we all be raising our eyebrows? But that is not the case. Should then the civilisation be blamed?
Parallel to the use of soft drinks, there is also a widespread use of bottled (read: designer) water. Among the wealthier sections of society, there are children who believe that nature provides drinking water, exclusively, in sealed bottles. On one of the billboards that blight the skyline of our cities, a certain brand had the distinction of being ‘Pakistan’s favourite water’, momentous news for those who grew up with the local lore that the best water came free from natural springs or deep bore wells.
If we were to put a finger on the nub of the matter, we would not be far off the mark in pointing to the epoch when the economy whizz-kids of the world realised that there was big money in selling water. The item once considered nature’s gift thereby became a saleable commodity from which millions could be earned without much effort. The only hurdle in the way was that this commodity was freely available in abundance. So, what better way to vault this hurdle than to contaminate the natural sources of water?
One misses the time when the ultimate thirst quencher was plain water. Unfortunately, not any more, at least in the urban areas. Today, it is considered infra-dig to drink plain water; you instead go for what is euphemistically known as a beverage. For those who still want the plain old water, there is the alternative of ‘designer water’, in a fancy bottle, at a price of course.
While this charade is being played in prosperous societies — and prosperous segments of poorer societies — a sizeable chunk of the world’s population does not have access even to clean drinking water. This fact has been stressed in several international conferences. Yet, mainly due to the inaction of the powers that be, children of numerous societies around the world continue to die in 100,000s every day because they are destined to drink contaminated water.
The intention here is not to condemn bottled beverages, designer water or even those that thrive on this market. But those who drink contaminated water in any part of the world do need a break. Multinational beverage conglomerates need to be reminded of their duty towards the welfare of humanity at large. Profits from the sales of bottled beverages and water are astronomical. Would it be too much to expect these multinational giants to put aside a small proportion of their profits, perhaps 10pc, to be utilised under the supervision of the United Nations, exclusively for projects intended for the purpose of making potable drinking water available to developing nations?
Would the aforementioned not be a better alternative to the many multinational conferences that are sponsored by the world body to discuss equitable provision of food and clean drinking water to the deprived segments of the world population? It is about time that those who control the UN wake up from their stupor and recognise that there exist people, beyond the hordes of multilateral diplomats, who are stuck to the world body like leeches.
Such projects could help raise the image of the UN, from an ineffective debating society to that of a utilitarian organisation working for the progress of the ‘people’ it is supposed to represent. Or, is that too much to expect?
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2017.