Residents cannot believe they will get Hogenakkal scheme water from today

Fifty-one-year-old Unnamalai of Mangarai at Pennagaram in Dharmapuri district breaks into a smile at the prospect of getting potable water from Wednesday under the Rs.1,928-crore Hogenakkal Water Supply Scheme and Fluorosis Mitigation Project.

It has been such a long wait that she and many others in the rural areas of Hogenakkal cannot believe that the scheme has been completed and will be commissioned on Wednesday.

“Let us see when the water is supplied. Announcements were made earlier too, but every time it got postponed for some reason or the other. We hope our dream will come true on Wednesday. We are not asking for anything more than good water to drink,” she said.

The scheme was drawn up to overcome the impact of fluoride in groundwater on 33 lakh people in the two districts that are known to have mostly barren hills and parched lands.

Consumption of water containing flouride had caused bone-related ailments and discolouration of teeth. More than 40 per cent of the population in many habitations suffered these problems, says a senior Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board official.

“We have been living very close to Cauvery river (source of the new scheme), yet it remained out of bounds for us all along when we struggled for even a pot of water,” says 67-year old V. Munian living near Papparapatti. Munian and many others walk or cycle two to three km every day for borewell water that has flouride up to 12.4 mg. A study report with the TWAD Board says the permissible limit is 1.5 mg.

“I had seen many announcements on the Hogenakkal scheme timeframe, right from when Kamaraj was the Chief Minister. Let me first get the water and taste it to believe it,” he adds sceptically.

Residents at Alamarathupatti say they have been fetching 20 pots of water a day from a borewell, located two km from their village. Men use mopeds or cycles to carry four pots of water each, while women walked with two pots each.

All family members have to be involved in fetching water from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., including those who had to go to school or college.

Affluent sections in urban areas buy water in 20-litre cans at prices ranging from Rs.25 to Rs.35 a can, while the poor rural people had to make do with borewell water despite the fluoride content, says R. Sathian of Pennagaram. There are more than 160-odd units involved in selling water in cans in both the districts.

Rajendran of Alamarathupatti is certain that the wait is over, because he had witnessed the trial run. At least, the next generation will be spared of the effect of fluoride, he says.

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