For the residents of Donakonda, in Andhra Pradesh's Prakasam district, a pot of water requires a 45 minute train journey.
The mandal headquarter town with an airstrip constructed by the British to fuel fighter planes during World War II, is inteh grip of a severe water shortage. The residents of this fluoride-affected area travel by train to fetch a few vessels of water with a storage tank, constructed with Dutch help drying up.
Each family spares a person for a day to travel by the Tenali-Markapur passenger at 9 a.m. to fetch water from Gajalakonda, 17 km from here. At Gajalakonda, they are allowed to fill only a few pots each. The water-seekers from Danakonda are worried that even this might dry up if locals might raise objections when the summer peaks,
Only strong men can undertake the risky job of filling up the pots at Gajalakonda and quickly boarding the train which returns from Markapur after 45 minutes, as it stops for only a couple of minutes at both stations, says 42-year-old Mekala Venkata Subbaiah, while boarding the train from Tenali.
Missing the train means a long wait of three hours to catch the next one to return to Donakonda. “If the engine driver and the guard on duty are kind enough, we get a few more minutes for boarding the train,” adds 28-year-old Venkateswarulu before alighting from the train, where his mother with nagging knee pain is waiting for his return
Flourosis has left most residents with arthritis, kidney ailments and other health problems, says social activist Sk. Nawab.
The summer storage tank was not filled fully during the release of water from Nagarjunasagar last year, complains former sarpanch Maqbul Ahamad. People want the authorities to press into service electric motors to fill the tanks now to tide over the water crisis till the onset of the Southwest monsoon.,
The Rs. 48-lakh pilot drinking water project is not being used due to the rusted pipelines.The five wells dug here colonial times have dried up due to indiscriminate sinking of borewells. “We did not face any water shortage till the loco-shed for steam engines was functioning before diesel and electric engines replaced them'', adds Mr. Nawab, also vice-president of the Prakasam district Consumers Council.