For close to a decade, rainwater collected in buckets and vessels was the only source of safe drinking water for some 300 households in Madhava Yadavalli village, about 25 kms from the district headquarters. “We were ‘rain-fed’,” say the villagers.
However, high fluoride content in groundwater was the only drinking water source when it did not rain. Since 2006 they are getting Krishna river water for their drinking needs. One can still find some metal diverters with plastic bottle-funnels along the inclined tin-sheet roofs.
“We have to thank dentist A. S. Narayana, who built these tanks. He even helped me with the kidney-stent surgery,” says Kiran, a youth in the village. He now rears cattle, also partially sponsored by the doctor.
Standing at one of the 2500-litre rain water tanks he built, Dr. A.S.Narayana says: “Not just M. Yadavalli, but everyone in Nalgonda district would know the value of safe drinking water.”
A dentist working on the mitigation of fluorosis in the villages of Narketpally mandal for the past three decades, Dr. Narayana set up the Sai Oral Health Foundation in 1988 “to encourage everyone to do their bit for de-fluoridation.” His work earned him recognition in 2002 when he was conferred with the Padma Shri.
Initially every household was provided a filter with bone char columns. “However, it was an expensive procedure as it needed to be changed every two months at ₹60 per household. Therefore we switched to the Thai model — rain water storage tanks and community de-fluoridators,” he explained.
As part of another campaign, an integrated development approach started in 2012 and the Foundation adopted the village.
The Foundation provided cattle at subsidy, biogas stoves, sewing machines and tailoring for women, computer literacy, desiltation of tanks and constructing recharge soak pits at groundwater sites. All these were sponsored either partially or fully and they are part of the villagers everyday life here.
“The average 6.8 mg fluoride per litre in 1988 reduced to 3.29 in 2016 (various locations),” the dentist adds.
Recovered victims can still recollect the ‘fluoride tourism’ during the ’80s. “Some of our relatives were laid on tables for photographs, and some visitors even paid ₹2 for a 5ml blood sample,” a shopkeeper Ashok Reddy recalls.
“This is a different village now, like a before and after photograph.”
A septuagenarian, Dr. Narayana lends his ear to everyone’s problems in the village, both literally and figuratively. He uses a clear sound hearing machine.
His car, during its monthly trip from Hyderabad carries fruits and enough strips of calcium, Vitamin A and D supplements. He doesn’t forget to take what he wants from the village — a half dozen plastic bottles of groundwater samples.
The Nirmal Gram Puraskar awardee now awaits a VIP visitor to inaugurate services at the new medical centre.