NEW DELHI: Almost half of mainland India comprising several districts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharasthra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar are facing severe drought, acute scarcity of water and a ferocious heat wave because of which hundreds of people have died.

As per the latest reports, heat wave conditions in Bihar alone have claimed 177 lives since last Saturday.

Over the weekend, 45 deaths occurred due to intense heat in many parts of the state. On Sunday, an additional 29 deaths were reported from Aurangabad, Gaya and Nawada.

At least 103 children have lost their lives due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur.

Sunil Kumar Shahi, the medical superintendent at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), said, “The toll due to encephalitis in Muzaffarpur has risen to (over) 100.” According to official data, 83 children died at SKMCH, and 17 lost their lives at Kejriwal hospital in the city.

“With the death of more children on Monday, Acute Encephalitis Syndrome has so far claimed the lives of 103 children in Muzaffarpur and its adjoining areas in north Bihar”, the Muzaffarpur District Magistrate said.

Gaya district on Monday imposed prohibitory orders in response to the severe heat wave. Gaya District Magistrate Abhishek Kumar Singh imposed orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

This is possibly the first time that Section 144 has been imposed in the state due to extreme weather conditions.

The drought situation has worsened in Maharashtra and Karnataka with 80% of districts in Karnataka and 72% in Maharashtra reeling from water scarcity and crop failure.

According to the State Water Resources Department data as many as 3,267 major, medium and minor dams have just 18.51% live storage compared to 29.95% on the same date last year.

Nearly 5000 water tankers have been deployed to Maharashtra to provide residents with water, compared to 937 in the previous year. Talking to The Citizen, Ashok Dhawale, of the All India Kisan Sabha said, “8.2 million farmers are affected by drought. All major crops, including maize, soy, cotton, citrus lemon, pulses and groundnuts have suffered due to poor rainfall.”

In Marathawada region which constitutes 8 districts of Maharashtra, consecutive droughts and the use of tankers for water supply has earned the region tag ‘Tankerwada’. Severe scarcity of drinking water and fodder for livestock has created extreme distress and crop cultivation has been severely hit.

People in villages have been migrating to other places in search of water. Praveen from Kharwade village, Mulshi Taluk in Maharasthra said, "Situation is getting worse day by day. Wells and handpumps are drying up. There is no water for crop cultivation."

Anita Tai from Karakatta village in Latur, told The Citizen, "The water tankers of state government come every four or five days. There is always unsurety about their next visit. The situation has been same for many years and nothing has been done from government to improve the conditions in summer season."

In Karnataka, according to the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC), up to 80 per cent of minor irrigation tanks in northern and eastern districts of Karnataka have dried up, 43 per cent of Karnataka’s tanks have gone dry while the rest have water about 30 per cent of their capacity.

Extreme heat waves and acute water supply has led to increasing heat stress and several cases of heatstroke have been reported. The bordering States of North Interior Karnataka, i.e., Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, have also been experiencing severe heat wave in the past five years and many deaths have been reported.

“In Bellary district water scarcity has only increased with years”, Mahesh Rao told The Citizen. He added, “Water still remains a bigger issue. No one talks about long term solutions. For past 3 years my I have seen my crops drying up. Providing debt relief, loan waiver is not the only solution. We need ground water to drink and irrigate fields. What is the use of providing subsidy on electricity and water supplies when water isn't available?”

Karnataka has been experiencing higher than normal temperatures particularly in districts belonging North Interior Karnataka.

Andhra Pradesh is also experiencing extreme heat along with depleting ground water, fall in reservoir levels as the delayed and sluggish monsoon has left the fields dried and farmers worried.

As per the media reports, t he drought-like situation last week drove a farmer in Prakasam district of coastal Andhra to commit suicide.

Addanki Venkateshwara Raju, 67, killed himself as all the 15 bores he dug on his 4.67 acre land failed. He had a debt burden of over Rs 2.50 lakhs.

The situation has also created fodder shortage. Farmers in districts like Nellore and Prakasam are struggling to get fodder for their livestock.

People in towns of Vizanagaram, Ongole, Giddaluru and Kadapa are getting piped drinking water once in four to five days.

The tankers deployed by authorities too are proving insufficient to meet the demand. As many as 20 towns are getting water once in two or three days.

Kurappa Rao, farmer from Anantpur district said “Farmers growing maize and black gram have been issued advisory by local kisan centre to delay the sowing of the crops till second week of June. With no rains in sight even in the second and third week of June, the sowing operations have gotten further delayed.”

Ground nut, Paddy and Chili farmers in south coastal Andhra are also worried. Last year too they suffered losses due to lack of timely rains, he added.

Over the last week in Rajasthan, Churu remained the hottest place recording 51 degrees, and also reported death of 2 people, followed by Kota which recorded 47.3 degrees. Bikaner, Ganganagar, Jaipur and Barmer recorded a maximum of 46.8, 46.5, 45 and 44.9 degrees, whereas the day temperature in Ajmer and Jaisalmer was 44.5 and 47 degrees, respectively.

Since last year, when most parts of the state witnessed a deficit rainfall, residents of Barmer district have been facing a severe drought situation. This is the sixth year in a row that the area has received scanty rainfall with the district facing a drought situation.

In recently held general elections, water crisis in Barmer was the key issue for the residents.

Villagers in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are leaving their homes amidst soaring temperatures and acute water shortage. Panna, Damoh, Chhatarpur and Tikamgarh are bearing the brunt of the crisis with the groundwater having dried up in hundreds of villages across forcing the residents to migrate en masse.

According to a district official in Tikamgarh who didn’t want to be named, “More than 80 big water sources have dried up in the heat in Madhya Pradesh. More than 40,000 hand pumps have stopped working in the villages of the state.”