Blood flows as water dries up in Madhya Pradesh

June 6th, 2009 - 11:40 am ICT by IANS  

By Sanjay Sharma
Bhopal, June 6 (IANS) Blood is being spilled over water in Madhya Pradesh.

The state is in the grip of acute water shortage, with some areas getting supply only once a week. Desperation has led to murders and in some cases water has been paid for by blood.

There have been violent protests among people in areas where water supply has trickled down to once in three days or even a week. This has led to at least half a dozen murders in the last one month in some places, including state capital Bhopal which was once known as the ‘city of lakes’.

Officials estimate that nearly 70 percent of the state’s 65 million people are enveloped by the crisis. Bhopal, Indore, Ujjain, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Sagar, Ratlam, Shajapur, Datia, Neemuch, Sidhi and Khargone are some of the worst-hit districts. Clashes over water in most of these districts have become common.

Bhopal witnessed a triple murder in a dispute over water May 13. Jeevan Malviya, 42, his wife and son were killed in a violent squabble that broke out when they tried to draw water from a leaky municipal water supply line.

Three days later, another murder took place in Bhopal in the Kanha Saiya area following a dispute between two groups over fetching water, forcing the administration to ensure the distribution of water in the presence of police.

“We have attached over 100 home guards with the municipal corporation and they will oversee water distribution,” Bhopal Additional Superintendent of Police Ruchi Srivistava told IANS.

The Dewas district administration has gone one step further. It has barred people from gathering along the 122-km Nemawar water supply line after several cases of water pilferage were reported. Policemen now guard the length of the pipeline.

Dewas Municipal Commissioner Devendra Singh told IANS: “Several incidents of damage to the pipeline were reported as a consequence of which water did not reach Dewas.”

At some places, desperate people are even ready to trade blood for some potable water. The people of Dhar district have come up with a novel way to combat the crisis. Members of a local Ganesh Utsav committee are donating blood to buy tankers of water which they distribute among the needy.

In the Nasrullaganj area of Sehore district in May, two groups clashed over the use of a hand pump. One man was killed and six people were seriously injured.

These are not isolated incidents. Earlier this month, one person each was killed in Ujjain and Indore. There have also been clashes at several other places in the state capital. Last week eight people were severely injured in a water dispute.

Last month police used batons and tear gas to control a mob in Indore that was protesting against erratic water supply. The entire Malwa region - in which Indore and eight other districts fall - and almost the whole of western Madhya Pradesh are reeling under acute water shortage.

Thirty-four out of 50 districts in Madhya Pradesh are facing a water crisis due to scanty rainfall. Experts put the blame on the reversal of monsoon trends last year and on the mismanagement of water supply. Old, rusty water pipes contribute to the 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,” he added.

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

Last month the Madhya Pradesh High Court intervened 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, including Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s home district of Sehore, tens of thousands are buying water from private sources.

“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.

Chief Minister Chouhan said: “There is a crisis of drinking water. We have already had a meeting on it.”

(Sanjay Sharma can be contacted at

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