Provide Potable Water Through ‘Gravity Scheme’ In Fifth Schedule Region: HRF

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that the government take requisite steps on a war footing to rectify the drinking water and health situation before another epidemic disaster unfolds in the Vizag Agency.

A three-member HRF team visited the Paderu area of the district recently to study the drinking water crisis obtaining in the Agency and the government’s response to it. The team visited four villages in Laxmipur panchayat of Munchingput mandal (Kodaput, Kenduguda, Mavvulaputtu and Jabada).

The drinking water situation in the area is rapidly going from bad to worse. In all four villages that the HRF team visited, Adivasis are relying on open well water and mountain springs for drinking water. Our enquiries revealed that this is the situation across the 11 mandals of the Agency. Since this is peak summer, these sources are invariably polluted and the water unfit for consumption.

What is shocking is the appalling state of the protected drinking water supply schemes in the Vizag Agency. The schemes exist only on paper and there is very little realisation on the ground. Notwithstanding tall claims, the government has failed miserably in ensuring that the Adivasi population is able to access safe, potable water. This is true of the entire 5th Schedule tracts from Utnur Agency in Adilabad district to Seetampeta Agency in Srikakulam district. This is a shameful state of affairs.

The Adivasis themselves point out that the best way to provide them potable water is by what is known as the ‘gravity scheme’. This involves tapping water from the perennial mountain springs (‘oota neeru’) atop a hill adjacent to the tribal habitation and carrying the water through a filter bed and pipeline to a tank in the village below. This can ensure an adequate supply of clean drinking water.

The ‘gravity scheme’ is highly appropriate for the Paderu Agency since most villages are located at a height below and not far from perennial mountain springs. Therefore, constancy of water flow is assured. Moreover, the scheme is not expensive and does not require any electricity either. It is by far the easiest and safest way to provide drinking water to most Adivasi habitations, including very remote villages.

The Adivasis have made countless appeals to the administration for installation of the ‘gravity schemes’ but to no avail. Time and again, the government has failed to fulfil this very basic requirement of providing clean drinking water to the people. This negligence has resulted in Adivasis succumbing year after year with fatal regularity, to totally preventable diseases like gastro-enteritis and typhoid, not to mention various skin ailments.

Health: With the onset of summer and the rains to follow, Adivasis in the Agency region are susceptible to fevers, in particular the deadly falciparum malaria. Despite concrete suggestions by experts like K R Venugopal in the past and notwithstanding assurances by officials, we observed that the administration is not giving the matter the serious attention it deserves.

Basic preventive measures like anti-malarial spraying are to be done thrice a year (the first round in June, the second round in August and a special round in March). The special round spraying has been delayed by about two months and has not even begun as of date except in some villages close to the main roads. A combination of low nutritional levels among the Adivasis, a fall in employment during summer, lack of access to clean water and a pathetic health infrastructure can have fatal consequences for the tribal population, particularly children.

V S Krishna
HRF State general secretary


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