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Miles to go to slake our thirst

Faraway wells and ponds, and the occasional water tanker, are the only hope for the residents of some districts in Andhra Pradesh. When even these fail, as they often do in the searing heat, it becomes a struggle to continue normal life

April 28, 2017 12:37 am | Updated November 29, 2021 01:08 pm IST - Ongole/PIPRI/SHYAMLALTANDA

THE LONG WALK HOME: Villagers from Pipri in Adilabad district, Telangana returning with water collected from the only source near their village.

THE LONG WALK HOME: Villagers from Pipri in Adilabad district, Telangana returning with water collected from the only source near their village.

Unmindful of the blazing sun, people in the remote fluoride affected Puchakayalapalle village, Markapur constituency in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh, set aside all their work and wait patiently for the arrival of a water tanker.

Disappointment was writ large on their faces seeing a team from The Hindu entering their village instead of the tanker, which usually brings unprocessed water from borewells sunk to a depth of 700 to 800 feet on agriculture fields. They do so because all water sources in most of the villages, particularly in the western parts have dried up, and Prakasam district is facing its third consecutive drought year.

This village, like half of the over 2,000 habitations in 56 mandals of the district, has no option but to depend on a supply of fluoride affected groundwater.

Presenting a grim picture, village sarpanch M. Malla Reddy, explains: “It is almost a decade now that the Sunkesulacheruvu had any inflows. The two borewells sunk by the gram panchayat for drinking water purpose have dried up. So is the case with many of the farm borewells in and around the village. Much against odds, we are able to provide only three to four pots of water per household.”

How can we meet all our water needs, including cooking and washing, and quench the thirst of cattle, our only source of meagre earnings given the lack of returns from agriculture, asks Sarada.

She has skipped work to join other family members, travelling whenever the need arises during the day, utilising a variety of different transportation to reach the unloading point for water tankers, all for a few pots of water.

For the residents of Donakonda, a pot of Krishna water requires a 45-minute train journey to Gajelakonda during the peak of summer every year as the storage tank constructed in the village dries up sooner or later.

“This year, we are fortunate to have Krishna water in the village till March. We may have to travel by train to bring Krishna water this year also from Gajelakonda if the once-in-a week water supply is not introduced from April till we get replenishment from Nagarjunasagar after the onset of the southwest monsoon,” explains villager Ramakrishna Reddy.

“Bathing is a luxury,” confides Srinivasulu from Jammanapalle village in Markapur mandal, with a population of around 1,000. The flagship Swachch Bharat scheme has suffered a setback here because sanitary latrines constructed in many of the houses fell into disuse due to insufficient water for flushing.

“How many more years will the State government take to complete the Veligonda project, our only hope for a permanent solution to our water woes?” ask people in Sunkesula, disappointed over the project for which Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu laid the foundation stone in 1996.

The project, which aimed to provide drinking water to 15.25 lakh people and irrigate 4.50 lakh acres, progresses at a snail's pace, and has suffered cost and time overruns in the last 20 years. - S. Murali


Telangana: disappearing water sources

It has been over four decades since the government initiated tribal development through the Integrated Tribal Development Agency but the wait for water has not ended for the Adivasis of Pipri, Kundi and Sungapur villages in Gadiguda and Narnoor mandals of Adilabad district, Telangana. Summer is a testing time for the 1,500 population.

The anxiety of the aboriginal Gond, Kolam and Andh people living in these parts for centuries can be gauged from the fact that they are unhappy with the road being laid to Pipri. “Priority should have been given to water,” points out the Pipri village headman or Patel, Sidam Jangu.

The problem of Narnoor and Gadiguda mandals lies in their geology, which comprises the vast deccan trap rock underneath the top soil. Neither open wells nor tube wells, therefore, hold water for long.

Dry borewells

Pipri, a village of 80 households has two other habitations – Kolamguda with 60 households and Andhguda with 15 hamlets. The main source of water for these hamlets is a borewell close to their villages, another located 2 km away from Pipri, and a couple of dilapidated open wells.

“All these dry up in March,” discloses Sidam Sangeetha who was collecting water from one of the wells which was recharged to an extent following a recent spell of heavy unseasonal rainfall. “This will not last beyond three days and we have to go to the well near Andhguda,” she laments.

Scarce supply

Ravindra Naik of Shyamnaik tanda in interior Nagalgidda mandal of Sangareddy district carries four pots on his bicycle to the nearest water source about 1 km away. A pipeline was laid from an open well but the water supply lasts for less than 30 minutes. The hamlet of 55 houses with 300 residents has merely one tank to meet the needs of the locals.

“People are sleeping near the water supply point in the night for water. Unable to feed the cattle the residents already sold about 10,” Najibai, a woman in her fifties stating that they have to make the animals walk 3 km to get drinking water". - S. Harpal Singh

This is the second of a seven-part series

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