Water — The common element: Lessons from antiquity and the health of the environment

Presidential address delivered at the 37th congress of the Southern African Society of Aquatic Scientists, Swakopmund, Namibia

  • C Dickens Umgeni Water, PO Box 9, Pietermaritzburg 3200, South Africa


The chief pursuit of all aquatic science is to come to know the rules that govern aquatic systems. In this pursuit many scientists move in the direction of greater diversity, where the laws that govern ecosystem relationships become increasingly confined to specific circumstances. Uncovering these types of laws can provide useful information for specific cases but it is necessary to balance this type of investigation with work that goes in the opposite direction i.e. towards the common laws. Knowledge of these laws is more widely applicable and indeed becomes increasingly so the closer they are to the `centre of the circle'. This type of pursuit was, and still should be, the function of the University, which seeks to find the unity in diversity.
This paper attempts to reveal the laws that govern water and its role in the environment. It presents what some ancient literature and scriptures call the fundamental nature of water, namely to bond and to provide a matrix in which other processes take place, and that this applies at the causal, subtle and physical levels. This paper seeks to illustrate how these laws, that make water what it is, spread throughout the natural environment, lending qualities to all systems that are dependent on water. Wide ranging reference is made to scriptural and historical literature some of which is thousands of years old. From these, a `fresh but ancient' way of viewing the health of the environment is presented, and the consequences of disrupting and abusing the natural laws are discussed.

Keywords: water; aquatic environment; philosophy; Veda; Bible; Upanishad; Koran; Gita; river; sattva; rajas; tamas; guna

(Afr J Aqua Sci: 2000 25: 3-8)

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9364
print ISSN: 1608-5914