The airstrip constructed by the British to fuel fighter planes during World War II, reminds one about the importance this mandal headquarters town enjoyed in the past.

Now the people of this fluoride-affected area travel by train to fetch a few vessels of water as they are confronted with a severe water shortage with the Netherlands-aided summer storage tank 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, as their dear ones are affected by arthritis, kidney ailments and other health hazards due to drinking water with high content of fluoride, says social activist Sk. Nawab. Only strong men can undertake the risky job of filling up a few pots of water at Gajalakonda and quickly board 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. 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 at least four electric motors to fill the tanks now to tide over the water crisis till the onset of the Southwest monsoon.Each of them is allowed to take a few pots from Gajalakonda now.

The locals might raise objection when the summer peaks, they fear. The Rs. 48-lakh pilot drinking water project is not being used due to the rusted pipelines. The five wells dug here during British time 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.