Drought-related migration in India

In June 2019 about 50% of India was grappling with water shortage, with between 300 and over 500 million people affected. The situation was especially dire in Maharashtra (~120 million people) and Karnataka (~70 million people). In Maharashtra alone, over 6,500 tankers were supplying water to many thousands of drought hit villages and hamlets. Extremely dry conditions followed deficient rainfall since 2015 and especially deficient monsoon rains in 2018 and 2019 (until June at least).

The drought has led to – mass – migration. The Guardian mentions an area in Maharasthra were up to 90% of the population has fled –  “village after village is deserted”. Reuters mentions “emptied out villages” in Bundelkhand where around 55% of the population had fled. Articles feature quotes such as “We got drinking water only once a week. Had I not left … my kids would have died.” India Today describes wells and hand pumps in villages zealously guarded by men wielding lathi (sticks) to prevent theft of water.

Figure. Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) – DG ECHO Daily Map | 28/06/2019

A governmental body (NITI Aayog) estimates that India’s  water demand by 2030 will be twice its available supply. Groundwater, the source of 40% of India’s water needs, is depleting at an unsustainable rate. The water resources ministry warns that some 21 cities , including Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad, could all run out of groundwater as early as next year. This year already, Chennai’s (India’s 6th largest city – 10 million inhabitants) 4 reservoirs ran dry. Among the measures taken or announced was a daily 220 kilometer daily water train to bring in water.

Deforestation, urbanization and lacking water resource management are putting huge pressures on water reservoirs. Although most climate models predict more intense monsoons due to climate change, weather data collected in the region shows that rainfall has actually declined over the past 50 years.

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