Save Water By Eating Healthy – Really?
We can save humongous amounts of water by making a few healthy changes to your eating habits – replace rice and wheat with millets and move from cane sugar to its natural alternatives.
Yes, you can save humongous amounts of water by making a few healthy changes to your eating habits – replace rice and wheat with millets and move from cane sugar to its natural alternatives.
India is food secure today but that happened at the cost of water security. Furthermore, we failed to improve nutrition, with zinc and iron deficiencies prevailing widely among the population.
With just 4% of the world’s freshwater, we use up 80% of that freshwater to feed 18% of the world’s population.
Rice, Sugar cane, and Wheat are water guzzler crops and in that order.
It takes 3,000 – 5,000 liters of water to grow 1 kg of rice.
It takes 1,500 – 3,000 liters of water to grow 1 kg of sugar cane.
It takes up to 1,000 liters of water to grow 1 kg of wheat.
So, let us study the curious case of Rice a bit in detail.
How much water we will use up in the current year 2020-21 to grow the forecasted amount of Rice:
117 million tonnes of Rice = 11.7 crore x 1000 kg x 3000 lt per kg = 351 lakh crore litres
YES, 351 LAKH CRORE LITERS OF WATER!
Let us put that figure into a perspective…
351 lakh crore liters can meet water supply to present-day twin cities of Hyderabad & Secunderabad for 399 years!
(based on estimated present-day daily requirement of 637 million gallons)
Now, think about fresh water used for the other two water guzzler food crops…
Let us switch from Rice, Wheat, and Sugar cane to their respective healthier options and save water.
Millets are not only much more nutritious in comparison to rice and wheat but also they just need a fraction of water to grow.
Millets can be grown in arid regions with little water. They are also more resilient and pest free. So, no pesticides and chemicals infusion through food.
In comparison to rice, millets (maize, finger millet, pearl millet and sorghum) provide more protein (+1%), iron (+27%) and zinc (+13%).
Incidentally, iron and zinc deficiencies are quite prevalent today among the population, which lead to further health complications needing healthcare and medication.
Millets were part of the staple diet of this part of the world from thousands of years. From a millet centric diet, it is today rice and wheat centric diet.
In 1956, India produced more millets than rice and wheat. Starting from the 1960s’, the amount of arable land employed to grow rice and wheat steadily grew, while that of millets declined.
Millet crops do not qualify for Minimum Support Price, so there is no incentive for farmers to grow them. Thus, the takeover of rice and wheat over the last several decades of the entire staples’ agriculture space happened.
Today, the prices of some of the millets are higher than that of rice. For example, foxtail millet is Rs. 80 per kilo. This is because it is not grown widely. With an increase in volume, the price will come down. With less water consumption and no need for pesticides, the prices of millets, overall, will become incredibly competitive to that of rice and wheat, once they become mainstream crops, again.
One need not entirely abandon rice and wheat suddenly but make millets as part of a regular diet, incrementally. For example, you could eat Ragi Rice instead of white rice once or twice a week, to start with. Almost every preparation made using rice and wheat could be done with millets. There are many traditional dishes made with millets, which can be rediscovered and made mainstream foods if we intend to do so!
One of the best plant-based alternatives to sugar is Stevia, an arid to semi-arid crop.
Stevia is healthy as it contributes zero calories as well as it is over 300 times sweeter to sugar. Therefore, the usage by volume will come down, exponentially.
Other natural alternatives to sugar cane include honey, maple syrup, yacon syrup, coconut sugar, etc.,
By decreasing the consumption of rice, wheat, and sugar, we will make a significant contribution towards long term water security!
We can save significant amounts of fresh water and at the same time improve our health, all leading to a healthier and sustainable environment and way of life!
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