Widespread drought and the driest June in 83 years has sparked panic across much of northern India and brought India’s vast farming economy to the verge of crisis. In Andhra Pradesh, the state that claims to be “the rice bowl of India”, the cumulative monsoon season figures have fallen 43 percent below average and India’s agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, has stated that serious problems are developing in states such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The rain shortage has also been causing increasingly violent outbreaks. In the city of Bhopal, where 100,000 people rely exclusively on tankers transporting water across the city, men, women and children frantically scrambled and jostled for the first tanker to arrive in two days in the Pushpa Nagar slum. In the Sanjay Nagar slum, three family members were hacked to death, accused by neighbors of stealing water.
Since last October, Bhopal’s population has been received a ration of 30 minutes of water supply every second day. With the monsoon rains failing to arrive, this has become one day in three. But not all will receive tanker deliveries; in many shanties people have to find their own methods.
‘It’s not just Bhopal. This has been a drought year for many districts,’ said Suresh Chandra Jaiswal, technical officer of Water Aid, a non government organization working to provide water and sanitation in 17 of the city’s 380 registered slums. ‘Now it has reached a critical stage. We just don’t know any more how long the water will last.’
The UN warns that water shortages will become one of the most urgent issues facing the planet in the coming decades, estimating that four billion people will be affected by 2050. What is happening in India, with too many people in places where there is not enough water, is said to be a foretaste of what is to come.