TIKAMGARH, India , May 1, (APP): As young boys plunge into a murky dam to escape the blistering afternoon sun, guards armed with guns stand vigil at one of the few remaining water bodies in a state hit hard by India 's crippling drought.
Desperate farmers from a neighbouring state regularly attempt to steal water from the Barighat dam, forcing authorities in central Madhya Pradesh to protect it with armed guards to ensure supplies.
India is officially in the grip of its worst water crisis in years, with the government saying that about 330 million people, or a quarter of the population, are suffering from drought after the last two monsoons failed.
"Water is more precious than gold in this area," Purshotam Sirohi, who was hired by the local municipality to protect the stop-dam, located in Tikamgarh district, told AFP.
"We are protecting the dam round the clock." But the security measures cannot stop the drought from ravaging the dam in the parched Bundelkhand region, with officials saying it holds just one month of reserves.
Four reservoirs in Madhya Pradesh have already dried up, leaving more than a million people with inadequate water and forcing authorities to truck in supplies.