Swaminathan’s much celebrated Tamil play Thaneer Thaneer (Water, Water – 1981) is about a remote village in rural India, facing severe water shortages. All their efforts to deal with the issue are met with no more than the indifference of local politicians and the apathy of the local press. The drama is compelling with an outsider helping to launch a cooperative scheme to bring water from a spring ten miles away and, various twists in a drama that ends in tears. It straddled the ever widening gap between rural and urban communities and, highlights an issue that is starting to ignite unrest and, strategic debate at the highest global levels.

In India human settlements are called “abadi” – which means that they are based on water. The word for water is “ab” in Persian and “ap” in Sanskrit. And “Abroo” means human dignity – which is a function of access to water itself. Global population is climbing from 6 to 9 billion by 2050, and our approach to all global resources has to respond. Oil and carbon dominates debate; food production will have to rise by up to 70 per cent to meet projected demand but, water is no less a challenge. The issue is way beyond drinking, cooking and washing – water is embedded in all products and shortages challenge human dignity, sustainable communities and business continuity alike.