Cyclone Carlos brought us some rain, but most probably not enough of it. Usually around Maha Shivaratri time we expect, and there usually is, a good amount of rainfall. But of course this is not always the case, and such is it this year. While for pilgrims this represents some relief, especially those who come from afar but who nevertheless bravely push onwards with faith in their hearts, for the population in general the water situation remains a matter of concern.
That is why every citizen must take note that despite Carlos, the level of topping up of our reservoirs has not matched expectations. In fact, as those who passed by Mare-aux-Vacoas in this period must have noticed, the watermark of the main ‘tower’ is still quite low. Another pointer to the diminished reserve is that a rim of the earthy bed is seen at the far end from the road, just below the trees – besides of course the more easily seen bare earth extending from the water edge to the grass along the fence bordering the road.
The other reservoirs around the island have also not been filled up to capacity. Despite this, there has been some easing of the supply to inhabitants especially in the hard hit areas with extension of the hours of distribution of water for domestic purposes, but one can foresee that this measure is not likely to be prolonged if more rain does not fall. Hence the need for continued responsible use and saving of water.
24/7 supply seems to be still some way off, and householders should prepare themselves by installing reservoirs, harvesting rain where possible – for which we have suggested before that the authorities must be more proactive in offering the appropriate advice and support at community level.
As can be appreciated, therefore, the issue of water availability – aside from the nature aspect – is a shared responsibility between the national authorities and the public who are the consumers. Both stakeholders have their part to play, and if they do so well, this will be to mutual benefit.
* * *
Despite the criticisms about the Maha Shivaratri pilgrimage…
…it is to the credit of all Mauritians that as the years go by the pilgrimage rolls out very smoothly. They have come not only to anticipate, but even look forward to the sight of pilgrims making their way from the far corners of the island, pushing or carrying kanwars and labouring to do so on the uphill roads. Imagine walking forth and back from Triolet or Quatre Cocos carrying kanwars on the shoulders, in sun or rain. The sight of young children alongside their older companions gives one hope that all is not lost in terms of moral bearing in society.
The traffic arrangements made by the Police keep improving and facilitating the passage of the pilgrims through the rural and urban areas, and automobile users also play their part in showing due patience and diligence when they encounter the walkers.
It must be recalled that this is the largest mass movement of the population that takes place annually in the country, and as such poses logistic and security problems that can only be resolved with the help of the authorities. And as we have noted, over the years they have assumed their responsibility as expected, and their oversight and supervision continues to improve, and this is both visible and tangible every year.
This year in particular the arrangements made for the uninterrupted supply of water at Gang Talao were stepped up with the installation of booster pumps and an augmented fleet of camions citernes, all to the credit of the engineers and other personnel who spared no effort to ensure that the pilgrims would have no difficulty.
Ironically, the criticisms, especially about the size of the kanwars, have been internal, from members of the community itself. Any constructive criticism should be welcome, but have those who made them tried to get an insight into the psyche of the youngsters – like them – who fast for days and weeks before they undertake the construction of the kanwars? Have they ever bothered to ‘accompany’ them in this venture, to understand what it is all about? A someone responded, isn’t this kind of constructive activity preferable to getting hooked on drugs, an easy temptation in these days?
It is indeed very easy to criticize, but there is a native saying of the Red Indians in America that ought to be well pondered before one pours one’s bile and sarcasm on others. It goes as follows: ‘Before you talk about another person, first walk a mile in his moccasin’. And for some of these pilgrims, it’s dozens of miles to and fro.
It would be well not to be too wise both before and after the event on the part of armchair pen pushers who seek to gain illusory traction and short-lived self-publicity.