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article imageArmed guards protect last of water in one drought-parched city

By Karen Graham     May 10, 2016 in Environment
Tikamgarh - Authorities in the central Indian city of Tikamgarh have placed round-the-clock armed guards around the city's last remaining source of drinking water to prevent farmers from siphoning off the water for irrigation.
The city is in Tikamgarh district, one of 50 districts of Madhya Pradesh state in central India, and is one of the hardest hit by the worst drought in recent memory.
While scientists have been warning of a looming water crisis in parts of the world, it is happening now in India and in parts of Africa’s central and Sahel regions, East Asia and the Middle East. Rainfall in the Tikamgarh district is 52 percent below average for the second year, compounding the fears of the residents.
With the monsoon rains still many weeks away, residents are living on rationed water handed out once every five days. Forty-seven-year-old Suryakant Tiwari and his family have been living on this ration of water for drinking and household use for weeks.
"I have not seen such a condition in my lifetime. Almost every water source in the area has dried up. We don't know how we will survive,” Tiwari told reporters, according to Reuters.
About 330 million people are suffering from drought in India  as the country reels from severe water...
About 330 million people are suffering from drought in India, as the country reels from severe water shortages.
AFP
So with the area's Bari Ghat dam, fed by the Jumuniya River, the main source of drinking water for an estimated 100,000 people, under constant threat of poaching from farmers in neighboring districts, Tikamgarh Municipal Corporation officials hired armed guards to protect the precious resource.
"If crops continue to be irrigated using the river water, it is not going to last long and there will be a severe crisis during the summer season," warned Laxmi Giri, the Tikamgahr municipal corporation president. "Our priority is to supply drinking water to the people."
Farmers in neighboring districts were sneaking into the reservoir at night, opening the floodgates or using pipes to siphon the water. "We're therefore compelled to deploy guards," Giri said, according to Business Insider.
“Water is more precious than gold in this area," said Purshotam Sirohi, who was hired by the municipality to protect the stop-dam. “We are protecting the dam round the clock."
Will water scarcity become our future?
India is in the grip of the worst water crisis it has seen in many decades. The government admits that over 300,000 people, at least a quarter of the population is suffering because of the drought that has lasted for the last two years.
Four reservoirs in Madhya Pradesh state have already dried up, leaving over a million people without adequate water, forcing authorities to ship in supplies. Officials have ordered more bore wells to be dug, but that may not remedy the situation because the groundwater table has receded over 30 meters.
Digital Journal reported on the World Bank's study on water scarcity and its impact on the global economy last week. In the report, we were warned that if governments did not take action to better manage water resources, some regions would face economic devastation.
We are seeing this happen right now in India. Farmers across India rely on the monsoon rains for their agricultural needs. If the coming four-month long rainy season turns out to be like the last two seasons, the situation in India will only get worse.
More about Water crisis, armed guards, severe drought, irrigation use, electricity shut off
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