It’s a typical morning as Delhi awakens to its usual chaos.
Legendary traffic jams.
Vendors on the street.
Beggars faces longingly pressed against car windows… selling flowers.
But like many of the word’s urban centers, Delhi is thirsty… even parched. As the 3rd largest population center in the world, its 25 million people need water, — and lots of it — to survive.
On this day, I want to learn more about how millions of people live literally bucket to bucket, not necessarily knowing when and if their water will come.
So I take my camera to the neighborhood of Sangram Vihar — one of the city’s countless informal, poor communities — where every drop counts. On this summer day, on a street made muddy by leaking sewage pipes, we come across women who have gathered to fill buckets and barrels from a water truck as it makes its delivery.
They pay for the tanker to deliver water because the city’s connections aren’t reliable, are unsafe, or aren’t available at all.
As the truck leaves, there are smiles of relief on this steamy day. While they may or may not have a toilet, they take comfort in knowing that their families will have water to drink and wash in the week ahead.
Yet many parts of India are not even as fortunate.
Unlike the delivery truck, the water never came.
Areas of the nation like Rajasthan to the west have faced one of the driest periods in history — and, in May, the hottest weeks ever recorded when temperatures reached 51 degrees Centigrade — that’s 124 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water scarcity and blinding heat have disrupted farming and energy production — the two largest users of water in the country.
The cruel irony here in Delhi… is that many living in the poorest informal neighborhoods like this one… are water refugees.
They are families from nearby states like Rajasthan and Bundelkhand where fiercely persistent drought and over-pumping has caused wells to go dry… farms to go bankrupt… and some farmers… even to take their own lives…
It’s clear that how India responds in the next months and years will have effects for generations. How will it mange the intensifying competition between water, food and energy in a changing climate?