Blood for Water

By Sadie Bass

Jun 15, 2009 9:49am

ABC's Karen Russo reports from New Delhi, India: Fighting over water has turned deadly in India’s central state of Madhya Pradesh where residents are suffering from a year-long draught. At least five people have been beaten to death and more injured as residents fought for water in 17 of the state’s districts, according to the Bhopal Superintendent of Police. A father, mother and their son were killed in the city of Bhopal on May 13 in what is believed to have been a violent dispute when they attempted to take water from a leaky municipal pipeline. “The water problem is a huge crisis,” said Babulala Gaur, Minister of Urban Administration and Development.  Gaur said volunteers are helping to organize the water distribution.  He blames impatient people for the violent outbursts. “It’s the nature of people fighting over water tank because they want the water first,” he said.   Officials estimate that 70 percent of the state's 65 million residents are affected.  The crisis comes from a lack of rainfall, shifts in monsoon and mismanagement of water supplies. “This year, everyone is struggling for water,” said Maria Fernandez, regional director for WaterAid India. Every year is difficult, but Fernandez says, she has never heard of people being killed for water. “This is the worst I have ever seen,” she said. Farmers barely have drinking water for themselves and as a result, their animals and crops, like wheat, are dying.  With no water, there is no cultivation and no income. Over the past year, there has been zero rainfall in some parts of India.  The government has made arrangement to bring water to cities, towns and villages via water pipelines and trucks, but some residents receive a shipment of water just once a week. Bhopal Mayor’s Sunil Sood said the water crisis is the worst in his area’s history. “It's of an unimaginable magnitude. In fact, it's unprecedented,” he said. Still, he said his city is doing better than some and they are able to supply water with tankers on alternate days.  About 250 police officers are working to “to discipline the crowd and prevent water loss.” “Police is not there to beat people and stop them from taking water.  It only ensures that all people get water,” he said.  “When our water tankers reach a particular locality, people rush to collect as much water as possible.  And this results in scuffle and fights. We are trying to ensure that all of them get equal or fair share.” India’s annual monsoon is expected to arrive in the region in the next few weeks. “Water crisis is nothing new in Bhopal but this year it's really bad,” said Sood.  “We hope that the situation improves in a month with the onset of monsoon.”

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus