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India's Nuclear Test Site Parched by Drought

India's nuclear site, which seared its name on the world map two years ago following a string of underground blasts, is now sweltering in the grip of a severe drought.

About 220,000 people in 174 villages surrounding the Pokhran site- 530 Kilometers (330 miles) west of New Delhi- are in one of the areas worst affected by the most crippling drought to strike the northern desert state of Rajasthan in 40 years AFP reported.

Some 20 million people in Rajasthan have been hit by the drought and another 30 million are suffering in neighbouring Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh states, as well as in the eastern state of Orissa and southern Andhra Pradesh.

"Pokhran has been badly affected," Kalpana Aggarwal, civilian administrator of the test site area, said.

In Phoolsund Hamlet, some 70 kilometers (40 miles) from the test site, Muhammad Salim is convinced there is a connection between the underground blasts and the drought conditions.

"The bombs have burnt our skies." Salim said as his shopkeeper neighbour, Ghanshyam Sharma, nodded solemnly in agreement.

"The rain stopped falling on Pokhran 2 years ago, after the bombs went off and dried up under ground water resources," Sharma said.

"Now we receive water from the government once a month. It is terrible for us. My family has no money, because nobody around here has enough money to buy form our shop."

Temperatures in Pokhran County recently were hovering around the 47 degree Celsius (ii6 degree Fahrenheit) mark.

Hundreds of people have abandoned their livestock to find their own way.


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