HotSpots H2O, July 2: Tensions Simmer Across India as Water Supply Falters

The Rundown

Hot temperatures and dwindling water supplies sparked conflict across India in recent months as the country suffers its “worst-ever” water crisis. In Shimla, a tourist destination in the Himalayan foothills, taps ran dry for nearly three weeks in May. During that time, angry crowds mobbed and harrassed “key men,” the civil servants who open and close water supply valves. In New Delhi, three recent deaths were linked to water shortages. This weekend, police in Hansi City arrested a dozen people who attacked a group of villagers drawing water from a canal.

“There are around 90 cities in India which are water stressed. They face crisis today, tomorrow and the day after.” –Rajendra Singh, founder and chairman of Indian conservation group Tarun Bharat Sangh. Singh notes that water shortages and disputes in India are the result of myriad factors, including aging distribution systems, poor management, and inadequate conservation measures.

By The Numbers

20 Days that many households in Shimla, India, were without water in May.

61 Key men who open and close water valves in Shimla. During the worst of the crisis, some of the men were ambushed by mobs and forced to keep valves open. In late May, local officials restructured the city’s water distribution schedule, which eased tensions.

3 People killed in New Delhi this year over water shortages. One incident left a father and son dead after a neighborhood brawl over water. The other incident was a shooting related to laying water pipelines.  

12 People arrested in Hansi City after they attacked a group from a neighboring community as they were drawing water from a canal. The ambush injured at least 12 people.

600 million Number of Indians who face high to extreme water stress, according to a recently released report by Indian think tank Niti Aayog.

On The Radar

The Composite Water Resources Management report by Niti Aayog warns of grim consequences if India fails to restore and protect its water supply. The report claims that 40 percent of Indians will not have access to clean water by 2030. It predicts that more than 20 cities, including tumultuous New Delhi, will deplete their groundwater by 2020. Currently, 200,000 Indians die each year because they have no access to clean water. This number, as well as disputes related to the scarcity, are likely to soar in coming years, the report asserts.

Resources and Further Reading

In context reporting from Circle of Blue:
Choke Point: India

Choke Point: Tamil Nadu  

Deadly Tensions Rise as India’s Water Supply Runs Dangerously Low (The New York Times)
India faces ‘worst-ever’ water crisis: report (Al Jazeera)
Indian Capital’s Summer of Discontent: Anger, Killings Over Water (The New York Times)
Water dispute: 12 arrested for violence (The Tribune)

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