Severe Drought Hits 50M in India : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Looks like AP finally discovered this disaster.

Severe Drought Hits 50M in India By NEELESH MISRA, Associated Press Writer

ARABASAN, India (AP) -- With necklaces and anklets jangling under their saris, village women joined their men digging a pit to hold water in India's smoldering western expanse, where severe drought is punishing 50 million people.

Tens of thousands of desperate villagers are said to be fleeing their parched lands, leaving hordes of cattle to die across a huge swathe of two western states. But many others are staying put, hoping an aid-for-work program started this week by the government will bring them money, food and water.

The desert state of Rajasthan and adjoining Gujarat are the worst affected. The water table has been dropping since November as the region endures its third year of drought.

Boding ill, summer has arrived early this year and is hotter than usual, with dry weather in large areas of the states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa -- where a cyclone and floods killed at least 10,000 last fall.

Water is so scarce that even camels -- the so-called ships of the desert that can go without a drink for more than two weeks -- are dying.

Three camels died in the dustbowl of Arabasan, a barren waste about 35 miles south of the historical fort city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, a high point of most tourists' visits to India.

In most years, villagers make handicrafts, do artisan work or run shops. Many men travel to Gujarat to work on coastal salt farms.

However, the drought has forced them into work programs, producing crippling poverty and killing cows -- a source of income and food -- because villagers are unable to buy fodder to keep them alive. With no rain to produce wild grass, livestock are dying by the thousands and carcasses lie everywhere.

About 100 villagers worked nonstop Wednesday in the scorching sun, beginning a monthslong effort to deepen a huge square cistern that was the main water source of nine villages until it went dry weeks ago.

Last year at this time, water was brimming in the 300-by-200-foot pit, into which women descended on steps with their wooden-handled iron water pots.

The villagers hope that when rain comes again, the pit will hold more water, and if they are very lucky, the government might line it with cement, to combat seepage.

In the meantime, they are working for the promise of government aid to get them through the hotter weeks to come.

Men in pink turbans and women in yellow and red saris billowing in the hot gusts of wind worked with spades and pickaxes. The men wore earrings and the women ornate necklaces, anklets, toe-rings, and thick bangles.

''I woke up, milked the buffaloes, cooked for the family, and I was here at 7 in the morning,'' said Teejan Devi, 30, her face completely masked by her yellow cotton sari. ''Now I will go back and cook again.''

Teams of three villagers have been each allotted an area to dig. After an 11-hour day, if they can deepen it by one foot, they would each get $1.50.

But at most, workers are only able to earn a third of that, said Umed Singh Araba, the portly, turbaned village headman. Workers must provide their own tools, and pay to have them sharpened, he said.

Arabasan villagers now have to walk or drive rickety farm tractors at least 15 miles to reach the nearest brackish pond. Dogs and cattle drink from it.

In the state capital of Jaipur, the city of pink painted buildings that President Clinton visited in March, government spokesman Mahendera Shudana said the government was trying to rush relief to the worst-hit areas and the shortage of animal feed would ease in a few days.

But he warned of an impending crisis in May and June, the worst months of India's sizzling summers.

''The situation will worsen,'' Shudana said.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 26, 2000


Thursday 27 April 2000

Heat soars, water-level sinks in Gadag The Times of India News Service

GADAG: The temperature in Gadag district has soared to over 40 degree Celsius and the district is in the grips of an acute water problem.

The water problem in Ron taluk is so grave that in Belavanki and Koujageri villages the villagers have to get drinking water from a distance of 6 km. Politicians and officials seem to be doing nothing except giving people assurances.

In Gadag town, the water problem is so bad with suppliy just once in eight days though municipal officials claim water is being supplied every alternate day. The civic body put the blame on KEB, on power cuts, voltage fluctuations, the busting of pipes, without taking concrete steps to solve problems.

The groundwater level in Gadag and Laxmeshwar taluks is sinking and unless steps are taken to improve the situation, there is every chance of the situation reverting to the 80s scenario when the water table was 300 feet. The water was then salty and unfit for consumption till the water table improved considerably after the Latur earthquake.

In fact, it was seen as a strange phenomenon, with dry wells and borewells getting activated after the quake and filling up with water. This in turn had a greening effect on the environment.

But all that is changing. With the water table sinking, borewells are not giving water. Unless the authorities wake up in time, the problem is likely to go out of hand.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 26, 2000.

Water riots break out in Gujarats drought-hit areas By Our Special Correspondent New Delhi, April 26

Water riots are taking place in the drought-hit areas of Gujarat and people are migrating to other areas to get food and drinking water, but the state government is busy holding meetings, sittings and eatings, according to the Gujarat Congress.

Criticising the BJP government in Gujarat for the administrative delay in relief operations and its complete failure in anticipating the severity of the drought, the Gujarat PCC spokesperson, Valjibhai Bagda, and party MP Sansibhai Makwana told reporters here on Wednesday that water riots took place in Rajkot, Dhoraji, Jasdan, Bhavnagar, Savarkhundla, Botad and Gadhda.

They claimed that the police resorted to a lathi charge to disperse people near Chitra marketing yard on the Bhavnagar-Rajkot road People are also deserting drought-hit areas, especially the Amreli district, to areas with drinking water.

Congress leaders have given a detailed report to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the severity of the drought and the government measures in the area. Mr Bagda claimed that the information given to Mrs Gandhi was based on facts.

Cattle is dying in Wadhavan and Sayla, they said, adding that the whole of Saurashtra and Kutch is under the grim shadow of severe drought and life has become difficult for human beings and animals. Two persons have died due to hunger and thirst in the drought affected areas, they claimed.

The state government had totally failed to meet the challenges of the worst drought situation in the state, they said. In a letter to Mrs Gandhi, they said that more than 8,666 villages of 17 districts in the state were affected and needed immediate relief measures, including drinking water.

At least 4,000 villages and 125 towns in Saurashtra and Kutch are facing a severe water crisis, they said urging the government to provide enough employment, relief work and fodder to the cattle and open more cattle camps. Mr Bagda said the state government has not opened a single cattle camp since the situation is getting worse.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 27, 2000.

WIRE:04/28/2000 09:44:00 ET Thousands migrate from drought-hit Indian state

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Thousands of people are leaving the parched Indian state of Rajasthan for neighboring regions in search of food and water, officials said Friday, as a severe drought deepens by the day. The officials also said navy ships were being used to carry water to the drought-hit western province of Gujarat, where rivers and tube wells have run dry in what has been called that state's worst drought in 100 years.

Large parts of western and central India, particularly Gujarat and Rajasthan, have been hit by severe drought, raising the specter of a famine that could affect an estimated 50 million people.

The drought has been blamed mainly on last year's poor monsoon rains and high temperatures in recent weeks have exacerbated the crisis.

"The human population is migrating to neighboring states ... because rains were not adequate," Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told Reuters.

Lawmakers in Rajasthan said people and their livestock were moving from the western parts of the province to the neighboring states of Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.

"Thousands of villagers facing drinking water and fodder problems have deserted their villages in western Rajasthan particularly from the border districts of Jaisalmer and Barmer," Sona Ram Choudhary, a lawmaker from Barmer, told Reuters.


The state and federal governments are stepping up relief efforts and are providing water and fodder to the drought-hit millions.

"Today, we are expecting the first Navy ship at Pipavav port carrying over 1,000 tons of water," P.N. Roy Chowdhury, managing director of Gujarat Maritime Board told Reuters.

He said government-run tanker trucks would carry water from the port to crisis-hit villages and townships.

Officials in Gujarat said about 1,000 trucks were being used to supply water to nearly 9,500 villages and 79 urban centers and the state government planned to use trains to supply water to the drought-hit northern and western areas.

"We have identified four locations from where trains will lift water and take it to the drought-hit areas in the northern and western parts of the state," a government spokesman said.

The Rajasthan chief minister said the states of Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab were sending fodder by special goods trains.

"Tankers with drinking water have been sent from neighboring states to western Rajasthan to overcome the drinking water shortage," he added.

Officials in Rajasthan said the government had provided jobs to 400,000 people under a food-for-work program and hoped to employ another 200,000 people in the next two months.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 28, 2000.

Prisoners in India Scream for Water By GOPAL DAS, Associated Press Writer

BHUBANESHWAR, India (AP) -- Thirsty prisoners, denied water for two days, rioted and shouted: ''Give us water or kill us.'' Thousands of people carrying buckets mobbed a water train. A ticket collector died of the heat at a train station.

A severe drought has parched South Asia, affecting 50 million people in India, drying up water wells in southern Afghanistan and killing animals in southern Pakistan.

In India, the drought has cut a smoldering swath from west to east across the states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa on the east coast, where a cyclone and floods killed at least 10,000 last fall. Eleven of India's 31 states are facing a water crisis.

Last week, temperatures reached 118 degrees in Orissa state, drying up streams, ponds and wells.

The hardest-hit area in Orissa is the western district of Bolangir, where half the 8,000 wells -- the main source of drinking water -- dried up in the past week, officials said Monday.

The Bolangir district government ordered schools and colleges closed beginning Monday and set government office hours from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. to conserve energy and keep people from working or standing in line during the hottest hours of the day.

A ticket collector dropped dead from heat stroke at the Titlagarh train station Friday, officials said, the first confirmed drought death in India this year.

In the trading center of Titlagarh, all but one of the town's 58 wells have gone dry, said district information officer Subhas Nial.

When a train carrying 37,500 gallons of drinking water from Calcutta pulled into the station on Saturday, thousands of men, women and children mobbed it to carry away water in plastic pails and pitchers.

The Bolangir district administrator, Chandra Sekhar Kumar, said the 200,000 residents of Titlagarh were getting by with less than 250,000 gallons of water a day. Their normal requirement is 930,000 gallons.

The 55 inmates at the jail in Titlagarh, some 200 miles west of the state capital, Bhubaneshwar, left without water for two days in cells without fans, tried to scale the walls Friday to break free.

They tossed their cooking pots and plates over the jail wall into the street and shouted, ''Give us water or kill us,'' said jail superintendent Tarini Charan Behera.

The inmates need 1,500 gallons of water a day for drinking, cooking and bathing, Behera said. Considering the area's water shortage, he had arranged on March 31 for a tanker of 250 gallons of water to be brought each day. ''We thought we could somehow manage, but even this tanker never showed up,'' Behera said.

Extra police came to quell the riot, and water was given to the inmates, he said.

AP-NY-05-01-00 1430EDT< r=cur&

-- Martin Thompson (, May 01, 2000.

Cattle perish as drought grips India's Rajasthan

By Naveen Thukral

KHAJURIA, India, May 8 (Reuters) - Bharta Ram, a farmer in India's parched northwestern state of Rajasthan, has lost 29 cattle in the past two months since a severe drought hit thousands of villages in the desert province.

``I have lost everything. My children used to play with milk, now there isn't even a drop to drink,'' he said, sitting near his dairy farm's only surviving cow in the tribal village of Khajuria.

Rajasthan, along with the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, has been in the grips of a severe drought following the failure of the monsoon rains last year and a scorching heat wave sweeping large parts of the country.

Villagers say thousands of animals have perished in the past two months.

Corpses are hung out to dry on trees lining a thin ribbon of road leading to the remote village of Khajuria in the Aravalli mountains, some 450 km (280 miles) south of state capital Jaipur.

People in Khajuria say a quarter of their livestock has died due to a dire shortage of fodder.

The severe shortage of animal feed and water has forced many farmers to let their livestock loose in the state's barren fields and dried up forests.

Herds of cattle wander from place to place chewing on leafless bushes and many drop dead during their hunt for food.

People say truckloads of animal skeletons move out of Kotda, a nearby township, every other day.

``The contractor gets animal bones collected from all the villages and transports them to the cities,'' said Gulab Ram, the head of Khajuria, among the worst affected villages.

But a state minister in charge of relief operations said the government had no reports of cattle deaths due to the drought.

``Cattle deaths could be there due to some other reason like disease,'' Kulab Singh Shaktawat told Reuters.


As temperatures soar and water sources dry up, Rajasthan has declared 23,406 villages drought-hit, affecting the lives of more than 20 million of the state's 44 million people.

With traditional sources of water such as wells, rivers, rivulets and streams drying up in and around Khajuria, women often trek miles for drinking water.

``There is no greenery left in the areas and we are not getting any supplies from the government,'' said Mohammed Usman, a resident of Kalakhetar village.

``It seems that the world will come to an end. I have not seen anything like this before,'' added an old tribal villager.

Authorities have started mammoth relief operations to help people in the parched villages, including digging new wells and employing farmers under the government's food for work programme.

``These people have no money, no food, so we recruit them for doing labour jobs, like digging canals,'' said an official supervising a relief programme.

The government had employed more than 550,000 people across the state to help dig new reservoirs, deepen parched dams and widen canals along the highway.

They get paid between 40 to 60 rupees for eight to 10 hours of work -- barely enough for two meals a day for a family.

``They take their pay in the evening to buy food. It is a hand to mouth situation for them,'' the official said.

($1 - 43.6 rupees)

07:25 05-08-00

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-- Martin Thompson (, May 08, 2000.

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