Madhya Pradesh hit by acute water crisis


Bhopal : Madhya Pradesh, one of India's largest states, is reeling under an acute water shortage with households in town after town receiving only a trickle – that too once in three days.

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The situation is even more alarming in far-flung rural areas that get water supply only once in a week. And when water does come, it is available only for 30-45 minutes. Officials estimate that nearly 70 percent of the state's 65 million people are enveloped by the crisis.

Gwalior, Ratlam, Shajapur, Datia, Neemuch, Sidhi, Khargone and Pachore are some of the districts worst hit. People in these places have repeatedly taken to the streets but to no avail.

Hundreds of residents of Gwalior's Dabra area submitted a memorandum to the district administration last week complaining about their water woes. They are yet to get a reply.

Bhopal, the state capital also known as the 'City of Lakes', faces a severe scarcity, mainly due to the rising population that has increased from 800,000 to 2.4 million in the last decade.

"We are not able to sleep at night waiting for the water. You don't know when the tap will start trickling or when a water tanker will come," Anjana Rathore, a resident of Bhopal, told IANS.

"Many times my husband stays back home to arrange for water," she added.

Naturally, the problem has at times led to violent protests and skirmishes.

In May, the police used batons and tear gas to control a mob in Indore that was protesting against erratic water supply.

Matters went out of hand in the Nasrullaganj area of Sehore district where two groups clashed over the use of a hand pump. One man was killed and six people were seriously injured.

People across the state are also troubled by the quality of water that is supplied. There have been reports of sewage getting mixed with the water supply in many places, including parts of Bhopal.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court in Jabalpur intervened last month, asking the authorities to explain why they have not been able to provide drinking water to the people.

With the government rationing water in as many as 115 urban centres, tens of thousands are buying water from private sources in desperation.

"Water supply through tankers has become a profitable business. Six families of our colony are jointly purchasing water from a tanker for Rs.500 every third day or so," said Sanjiv Goswami, who lives in Bhopal's Saket Nagar area.

Age old, rusty water pipes also contribute to the spiraling shortage. "Around 30 percent of water gets lost due to leakage," said a civil engineer in the water works department.

The water table has also receded, leaving most tube wells dry. Water supply has been hit even in low-lying areas.

The government has put up 364,000 hand pumps across the state to draw water but as many as 45,000 are no longer operational – because of receding ground water levels.