Famine, murder and suicide plague central and northern India as drought sucks up dwindling water reserves. Central India has experienced record low rainfall over the last decade and is suffering several years of drought.
Many local governments have banned water use for farming, livestock and domestic purposes like watering lawns or washing cars. In Madhya Pradesh, most citizens can only access public drinking water two or three days a week and in some villages the government prohibits using the valuable resource for anything other than drinking water.
“We are facing drought and facing a lot of difficulties as we have no work,” said a villager in Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh “I got to know about the work…which has now been cancelled. How do I feed my family?”
The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, said that the region has been implementing drought response mechanisms over the last 10 years, such as water storage facilities, which he believes have prepared the district for drought. Earlier this month, the state government approved a 20-year potable water strategy that will cost roughly $2.2 billion USD.
Despite government efforts, high temperatures are causing tension and police report increased instances of water scarcity-related violence.
Last month in Chhatarpur, Pushpa Namdev killed her sister, Imrat Namdev, in a water conflict. “Our village faces a severe shortage of potable water,” the victim’s son told Reuters. ”Pushpa always felt my mother drew more water from the well.”
Equally disturbing is the numbers of farmers in the region that have committed suicide because of the drought. Several months ago, a small-scale agriculturalist, Ram Dwivedi, took his own life.
“He was depending heavily on the crop to repay his loan but was depressed at seeing the prospect of the second crop of the year failing,” reported Ram’s brother.
Tensions may cool when the oncoming summer monsoons will bring water to India’s dehydrated central region.