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.

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.

Silent killer

Silent Killer

A woman from Nanegaon in the Kolwan Valley west of Pune carries water home past the heavily-fertilized sugarcane fields near her community’s open well. Sugarcane requires copious amounts of water and heavy fertilization, most commonly with a nitrate-based urea. Although not fully understood, excess amounts of nitrates have been associated with methaemoglobinaemia, a potentially life-threatening condition of depleted blood-oxygen levels, especially serious in bottle-fed infants.

According to Mr. Shyam Divan, a Senior Advocate for the Supreme Court of India, there are no legal frameworks in India with which to prosecute those releasing industrial contaminants (agro or otherwise) to a public water supply.

In the news, ending 28 November 2008

A few stories especially of interest in the past week:

Is Kashmir key to Afghan peace? – Christian Science Monitor
Raises the question as to whether solving the Indo-Pakistan dispute will help resolve the situation in Afghanistan. Significantly more attention will be paid to this region in the coming months.

Police issue slew of citations at party with alcohol near UO campus – Register-Guard
Extended coverage of what happened at the Campbell Club.

Paani- Coca Cola and Water tables in Rajasthan – Shekhar Kapur
Kapur argues that groundwater exploitation in Rajasthan is not a failure of the multi-national corporations, but rather government policy.

via Publish2

In the news, ending 13 November 2008

International news that caught my interest in the past couple of days:

The Struggle for Water – New York Times
A telling set of images from Delhi about the dismal state of water access for the majority of the population.

Sibal rules out global action plan on climate change – Yahoo! India News
India rules out a global action plan for addressing climate change in favor of local initiatives. Although this initially reads negative to me, there is high potential for specific, decentralized solutions. It’ll be interesting to see whether the national government is actually able to inspire movement on the ground level.

Plan for new Maldives homeland – BBC
The president-elect says he wants to buy a new homeland for Maldives islanders because of the potential threat from rising sea levels. The Maldives are “just about 3 feet” above sea level.

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