The water wars have begun in Bhopal

According to The Guardian, Bhopal and many parts of Northern India are facing a late monsoon and the driest June in 83 years:

In Bhopal, which bills itself as the City of Lakes, patience is already at breaking point. The largest lake, the 1,000-year-old, man-made Upper Lake, had reduced in size from 38 sq km to 5 sq km by the start of last week.

The population of 1.8 million has been rationed to 30 minutes of water supply every other day since October. That became one day in three as the monsoon failed to materialise. In nearby Indore the ration is half an hour’s supply every seven days.

Much of India is dependent on a yearly monsoon from June to September to replenish lakes and reservoirs. When the rains are late, there just isn’t enough water. Of course, it’s the poorest of the poor that suffer the most in a situation like this.

I came across a photo essay from the BBC about the shortages in Mumbai earlier today as well. This could be just the tip of the iceberg (although that’s probably a poor choice of words).

It settles out?


In Rajasthan, two boys in the 8th standard fill their father’s cart with water from the village naadi, or pond. It takes around an hour and a half for them to complete this task daily, and provides just enough water for the eight family members, 10 to 15 goat, a cow, and a bullock. The quality of their water becomes less important when quantity is a concern.

I’ve been working frantically for just over a week on putting together a piece for this year’s edition of Flux Magazine, only to learn at the last minute that my story was cut because I’m not an active student. If I have time next week, I’ll finish up what I was writing and publish it.

Interview with Deo of Village Health Works

Video removed on the request of Village Health Works.

Isaac Holeman chats with Deo, the Executive Director of Village Health Works in Burundi, about his clinic in Kigutu supported by Partners In Health, what the need is (Burundi is the poorest country in the world according to a 2006 World Bank report), and where he hopes to take the project in the future. If it isn’t conveyed in the interview, Deo has had a tremendously lucky life that he’s taken full advantage of. At the conference Isaac and I attended last week, we were fortunate to hear Deo speak on two occasions, a panel on “How Poverty Enters the Body” and a Saturday keynote. The PIH bio on Deo is another good source of information on his experiences and current work.

A couple of notes on from my end. First, apologies for the shakiness. I’ve learned that, for Flip interviews over 5 minutes, tripods are a must. Second, I didn’t realise at the time how distracting the background noise would be. We’ll make sure to find a quiet place next time.

Broken Connection

Broken Connection

In Savurgaon, a small village in the Kolwan Valley, Maharashtra, India, a broken pipeline in March 2009 means no water for at least five days. The community shares its local government, the Gram Panchayat, with two other villages, a unique situation to the area which ultimately means that issues aren’t often addressed as quickly as they should be. In the interim, many of the families are dependent on the generosity of a wealthier farmer with his own private bore well. When water does come again, though, the way the pots are ordered will signify who gets their fill first.

Cricket match

Kids play cricket, India’s most popular sport, on the banks of the Ganges River in Kanpur. Although significantly polluted, it is still the life-source for those who live along the river.

The Ganges, according to Rakesh Jaiswal of Eco Friends, is forecast to “die” in 30 to 50 years, meaning all available water flow will be allocated to different agricultural and industrial uses. This analysis doesn’t factor in the potentially negative effects of climate change on water sources in the Himalaya.

This is the first in a series of images titled “India, Water, and Sustainable Development” that was first published in Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development in Spring 2008. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting the best of these photos.

Striations of the city

Down the street

A view of the main street running down Alta Cayma. As the city grows, it expands outwards, and the distance from the center is a decent ruler for measuring socio-economic status. The houses, businesses, and infrastructure closer to the hub are significantly nicer than those in the periphery. Conversely, a view up the street running out of town (from a few blocks higher):

Up the street

Rural poor come to the city looking for new livelihoods, and the easiest place to start is on the outskirts of town.

Also, a wee little video of the same area.

In the news: demonstrations in Haiti, climate feedback in the Arctic, and number near starvation skyrockets

News that caught my interest in the past week:

Demonstrations in Haiti – The Freeport News
Hopes of the new US president supporting former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s return to power could lead to increased demonstrations and violence in Haiti.

Your Guide to Alternative Business Models for Newspapers – PBS Mediashift
A roundup of online business models for newspapers. None are strikingly original, however. More so, they just seem like attempts to justify huge news organizations.

Has the Arctic melt passed the point of no return? – The Independent
Study published may indicate the arctic is already experiencing a feedback loop because of climate change.

Evolution of the Web – Worldchanging
Lebkowsky argues that traditional marketing is going to face a serious wakeup call in 2009.

Oil Is Not the Climate Change Culprit – It’s All About Coal – Wired Science
Research is showing that coal is the significant contributor to climate change, and that oil is only a drop in the bucket.

Waking up to a morning without the newspaper – OregonLive
Oregonian decides to stop delivering to houses in the Eugene-Springfield area, and the old readers are disappointed.

Global food crisis needs global treaty, says Britain’s environment chief – The Guardian
“The number of people facing starvation worldwide rose 40 million to 963 million during 2008, mostly as a result of rising food prices.” Wow.

via Publish2

Blog Action Day 08: The cost of water

In Mumbai, India, the poorest of the poor pay disproportionately more for their water.


Men and boys from the non-institutionalized slums of Mumbai (the ones on the periphery of the city without public taps) wake at 4 AM every morning to buy water from those who do have formal connections.

Super quality

The cost of water is two rupees per 35 L jerry can when the lines start at 5 AM, but jumps up to around six rupees per can when the water from the city stops flowing. Most families need between eight and ten cans per day.

Filling up

In short, those who have to buy their water each morning can spend up to 900 rupees per month. The deed holders (i.e. those who own land and have a house) have pipes from the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) at a cost of only 125 rupees per month.


Unfortunately, this appalling situation is in equilibrium, as house owners can make upwards of 3,000 rupees per day selling water to those who have to spend a significant amount of their income to get the bare minimum.

To make matters worse, the BMC would like to privatize water in the future, arguing they “lose too much money in the business.”

Here, in the slums next to Govandi and Mankhuted, “Do you get the water?” is asked each morning in place of “Hello” or “How are you?”

Images and text released under Creative Commons for Blog Action Day 08: Poverty