(NaturalNews) Much of the western United States is currently mired in a devastating drought, one that could eventually see the relocation of tens of thousands of people out of Las Vegas, as well as massive food shortages caused by the lack of production in California's once-fertile fields.
And the lack of water is causing definite changes in behavior among the civil society. Cities have levied new fines on residents who are caught using too much water or using water in an unapproved manner (such as watering lawns or washing cars); there have been thefts of water; and there have even been dire predictions that Las Vegas may actually run out of water, leaving tens of thousands of residents with little choice but to relocate.
But the United States is not alone. There is also drought in India, where shortages have gotten so bad that the civil society has begun to break down.
'Water is very scarce in this region'
According to reports, armed bandits have recently threatened villagers in northern India, where the drought is the worst, with death, unless they deliver 35 buckets of water each day to them.
So far, The Associated Press reported, 28 villages have complied with the order, each of them taking turns to deliver what the bandits are calling a daily "water tax," police have said.
"Water itself is very scarce in this region. Villagers can hardly meet their demand," said Suresh Kumar Singh, an officer from Banda, a city on the southern border of Uttar Pradesh.
The region is currently cut off from supply lines, which has left the bandits reliant on surrounding villages for their water. Since 2007, the area has been starved for rain, with the yearly monsoon dropping rain on only about half the usual number of 52 days eash year.
"A few bandits are still active in the ravines," Singh said. "They ask for water, food and shelter from the villages."
The bandits, from the Balkhariya gang, have struck fear in the hearts of many villagers. As such, in late July, many villages began complying with an order to haul water to them, sometimes over distances of about 2.5 miles, into parts of northern India were the gang is believed to have hideouts, according to Bagwat Prasad, a member of a local charity group that works on water and sanitation issues.
"Any request from Balkhariya gang members is an order," Prasad said. "No one can dare to say no."
'Lakes, streams have long since dried up'
Although the number of bandits has fallen off dramatically in recent decades, India's bandit tradition, which is nearly 800 years old, has continued in some of the hardest-to-reach forests and mountains of the Bundelkhand region, NDTV reported, adding:
But while the bandits were once admired as caste warlords with a touch of Robin Hood about them, as they fought to protest feudal orders or to avenge personal wrongs, today's bandits are considered mostly opportunistic thugs seeking personal wealth and power.
A number of smaller lakes and streams have long since dried up in the area, and bandits have been reluctant to risk running into Indian police by leaving the protection of their area to search for water.
The Indian government has set up a reward of about $4,200 for any information leading to the arrest of the gang leader, on charges of murder, looting and kidnapping.
As for the American West, if drought conditions persist, expect to see further breakdown of civil society there as well. In fact, wide swaths of the United States that remain mired in one of the worst droughts in recent times have prompted some to describe conditions as near "apocalyptic."