A bureaucrat in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh ordered over a million litres of water to be drained from a reservoir to retrieve a smartphone he had dropped while taking a selfie, according to a report in the Times of India.
Rajesh Vishwas, a food inspector with the provincial government, has been suspended and inquiries are being conducted about others who allowed the water to be drained. The official claimed not to have taken any action overstepping his authority in a video recording, the newspaper said.
The incident took place on May 21, but photos and videos circulating on social media brought it to public attention on Thursday.
Local media reported that Vishwas first asked local divers to retrieve the phone, claiming it contained sensitive government data. But after initial efforts failed, he asked for the reservoir to be emptied using diesel pumps. Over the next three days, more than two million litres of water were drained from the reservoir — enough to irrigate at least 1,500 acres of land during India’s scorching summer — media reported.
India is home to the world’s largest population but gets only 4% of the Earth’s fresh water, with farmers consuming almost 90% of the groundwater available. As global temperatures rise and overuse of water depletes existing resources, the threat to lives and businesses in Asia’s third-largest economy is expected to grow. By 2030, demand is expected to outstrip supply by about 50%, according to the Water Resources Group.