In a minute walk along this low-lying district of Delhi, near the Yudhister Setu bridge, I spot six water pumps within yards of either bank of the river, one some 10 feet from the shore. Four are metal hand pumps that can reach only into the shallowest of the water tables.
These kind of wells, settlements, and crops are illegal, and hazardous. The water and soil are almost certainly contaminated by the river and drains. Samples taken along the banks routinely show high levels of lead, mercury, and other heavy metals. Intense flash floods that seem to be increasingly common during the summer monsoons regularly inundate the plains, washing away shelters and people. The southern state of Karnataka, for instance, developed a plan recommending increased use of rainwater harvesting structures, wider adoption of drip and sprinkler irrigation in agriculture, tighter restrictions on borewells, and improved sewage management to prevent water bodies and aquifers from being polluted.
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But experts say these plans would be incredibly difficult and expensive to implement, and inadequate even if they were realized. India needs to overhaul the way it uses water. The dry parts of the country will have to create jobs in industries other than agriculture, which currently employs nearly half the workforce. Cities will need to build modern networks of water and sewage pipes, treatment facilities, and wetlands, and restrict development and add flood protections along waterways.
But one of the most effective ways of dealing with an erratic water supply is to add storage, says Veena Srinivasan, a senior fellow at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment. That can mean everything from small-scale, private efforts like capturing rain on rooftops to centralized, large-scale dams, canals, and reservoirs. The federal government generally prefers the latter. The most obvious and ambitious example is known as the Indian River Inter-link, a civil engineering project costing more than 5.
The idea is that the government could smooth out imbalances across thousands of miles, sloshing water from a flooded area on one side of the country to a drought-gripped region on the other. In a nation as large and spread-out as India, any broadly workable strategy requires better water management at local levels, Srinivasan says.
That means capturing and filtering rainwater in tanks; rehabilitating lakes, ponds, and rivers; and using both to recharge aquifers. On a morning in early March, Vishwanath Srikantaiah leads me on a tour around Jakkur Lake, a bowling-pin-shaped body of water in Bangalore. Standing a willowy 6' 4" 1. Along the northeastern shore, he steps off the walking path around the lake and onto a thin trail leading into the surrounding wetland, a bright green thicket of cattails, water hyacinth, and alligator grass.
About a hundred yards down the trail, he gestures toward a channel at the edge of the grasses, where a stream of burbling water feeds into the lake. The growing population has placed enormous strains on that resource both by sucking it up faster than it can be replenished and by polluting the water bodies that recharge it.
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The second point which We consider basic in the encyclical is his teaching that man's aim must be to achieve in social justice a national and international juridical order, with its network of public and private institutions, in which all economic activity can be conducted not merely for private gain but also in the interests of the common good. For all that he did to render more precise the Christian definition of social rights and duties, no small recognition is due to Our late Predecessor, Pius XII. On Pentecost Sunday, June 1st, , he broadcast his message "to call to the attention of the Catholic world a memory worthy of being written in letters of gold on the Church's Calendar: the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the epoch-making social encyclical of Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum ," l6 and "to render to Almighty God from the bottom of Our heart, Our humble thanks for the gift, which He bestowed on the Church in that encyclical of His vicar on earth, and to praise Him for the lifegiving breath of the Spirit which through it, in ever-growing measure from that time on, has blown on all mankind.
In that broadcast message the great Pontiff claimed for the Church "the indisputable competence" to "decide whether the bases of a given social system are in accord with the unchangeable order which God our Creator and Redeemer has shown us through the Natural Law and Revelation. These three fundamental values, which are closely connected one with the other, mutually complementary and dependent, are: the use of material goods, work, and the family.
Concerning the use of material goods, Our Predecessor declared that the right of every man to use these for his own sustenance is prior to every other economic right, even that of private property.
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The right to the private possession of material goods is admittedly a natural one; nevertheless, in the objective order established by God, the right to property cannot stand in the way of the axiomatic principle that "the goods which were created by God for all men should flow to all alike, according to the principles of justice and charity" On the subject of work, Pius XII repeated the teaching of the Leonine encyclical, maintaining that a man's work is at once his duty and his right. It is for individuals, therefore, to regulate their mutual relations where their work is concerned.
If they cannot do so, or will not do so, then, and only then, does "it fall back on the State to intervene in the division and distribution of work, and this must be according to the form and measure that the common good properly understood demands. In dealing with the family the Supreme Pontiff affirmed that the private ownership of material goods has a great part to play in promoting the welfare of family life.
It "secures for the father of a family the healthy liberty he needs in order to fulfil the duties assigned him by the Creator regarding the physical, spiritual and religious welfare of the family. And so Our Predecessor, in speaking of migration, admonished both parties involved, namely the country of departure and the country receiving the newcomers, to seek always "to eliminate as far as possible all obstacles to the birth and growth of real confidence" 24 between the nations.
In this way both will contribute to, and share in, the increased welfare of man and the progress of culture. But in the twenty years which have elapsed since the changing economic climate noted at that time by Pius XII the economic scene has undergone a radical transformation, both in the internal structure of the various States and in their relations with one another. In the field of science, technology and economics we have the discovery of nuclear energy, and its application first to the purposes of war and later, increasingly, to peaceful ends; the practically limitless possibilities of chemistry in the production of synthetic materials; the growth of automation in industry and public services; the modernization of agriculture; the easing of communications, especially by radio and television; Faster transportation and the initial conquest of interplanetary space.
‘1984’ as history
In the social field we have the development of social insurance and, in the more economically advanced communities, the introduction of social security systems. Men in labor unions are showing a more responsible awareness of the major social and economic problems. There is a progressive improvement in basic education, a wider distribution of essential commodities, greater opportunities for advancement in industry and the consequent breaking down of class barriers, and a keener interest in world affairs shown by people of average education.
At the same time, however, this assessment of the increased efficiency of social and economic systems in a growing number of communities serves also to bring to light certain glaring discrepancies. There is, in the first place, a progressive lack of balance between agriculture on the one hand, and industry and public services on the other. Secondly, there are areas of varying economic prosperity within the same political communities.
Finally—to take a world view—one observes a marked disparity in the economic wealth possessed by different countries. To turn to the political field, We observe many changes. In a number of countries all classes of citizens are taking a part in public life, and public authorities are injecting themselves more each day into social and economic matters. We are witnessing the break-away from colonialism and the attainment of political independence by the peoples of Asia and Africa.
Drawn together by their common needs nations are becoming daily more interdependent. There is, moreover, an ever-extending network of societies and organizations which set their sights beyond the aims and interests of individual countries and concentrate on the economic, social, cultural and political welfare of all nations throughout the world. As We pass all this in review, We are aware of Our responsibility to take up this torch which Our great predecessors lighted, and hand it on with undiminished flame.
It is a torch to lighten the pathways of all who would seek appropriate solutions to the many social problems of our times.
Our purpose, therefore, is not merely to commemorate in a fitting manner the Leonine encyclical, but also to confirm and make more specific the teaching of Our predecessors, and to determine clearly the mind of the Church on the new and important problems of the day. It should be stated at the outset that in the economic order first place must be given to the personal initiative of private citizens working either as individuals or in association with each other in various ways for the furtherance of common interests.
But—for reasons explained by Our predecessors—the civil power must also have a hand in the economy. It has to promote production in a way best calculated to achieve social progress and the well-being of all citizens. And in this work of directing, stimulating, co-ordinating, supplying and integrating, its guiding principle must be the "principle of subsidiary function" formulated by Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno. Just as it is wrong to withdraw from the individual and commit to a community what private enterprise and industry can accomplish, so too it is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order, for a larger and higher association to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower societies.
Of its very nature the true aim of all social activity should be to help members of the social body, but never to destroy or absorb them. The present advance in scientific knowledge and productive technology clearly puts it within the power of the public authority to a much greater degree than ever before to reduce imbalances which may exist between different branches of the economy or between different regions within the same country or even between the different peoples of the world. It also puts into the hands of public authority a greater means for limiting fluctuations in the economy and for providing effective measures to prevent the recurrence of mass unemployment.
Hence the insistent demands on those in authority—since they are responsible for the common good—to increase the degree and scope of their activities in the economic sphere, and to devise ways and means and set the necessary machinery in motion for the attainment of this end. But however extensive and far-reaching the influence of the State on the economy may be, it must never be exerted to the extent of depriving the individual citizen of his freedom of action. It must rather augment his freedom while effectively guaranteeing the protection of his essential personal rights.