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India heat wave triggers clashes over water

Darko Janjevic
June 8, 2019

With temperatures nearing record highs across India, residents of some areas started fighting over access to water. Authorities in Madhya Pradesh have deployed police to escort water tankers.

Volunteers distribute water in India
Image: Getty Images/AFP/N. Nanu

Police were tasked with guarding water tankers and water sources in Madhya Pradesh state in central India, the Times of India reported on Saturday, following clashes over water in the state and other parts of the country.

Temperatures in India reached 50.3 degrees Celsius (122.54 Fahrenheit) last week, nearing the record high of 51 degrees Celsius set in 2016. Authorities have been distributing water to areas most affected by the heat wave, but the scarcity of water has prompted fights and stabbings at relief points.

At least six people were stabbed by a man near Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, on Friday. There was a fight with a man from a neighboring village who was filling barrels of water from a tanker, according to a report on NDTV. A man died in a similar fight on the same day in southern Tamil Nadu state. Two men were seriously injured in a fight over water in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday and a tanker truck driver was beaten up in the same state a day earlier.

Read more: Digging deep to harvest India's rainwater

Commenting on the decision to deploy police in Madhya Pradesh, the state's home minister, Bala Bachchan, said police would only guard tankers at "sensitive places" where flare-ups were possible.

"This doesn't happen everywhere," he said. "I have asked officials to be alert."

Media in the same state also reported that a group of monkeys died of heatstroke in the Joshi Baba forest and that tigers have been moving out of the wild into villages, searching for water.

Some parts of India gained relief from the heat after annual monsoon rains reached the south of the subcontinent, over a week later than expected.

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