Provide Potable Water To Adivasis In Agency Region: HRF

The Commissioner
Tribal Welfare
Govt. of Andhra Pradesh


Sub: Lack of access to clean drinking water by Adivasis in the Fifth Schedule areas – implemention of protected drinking water schemes — regarding

We wish to draw your attention to the sorry state of protected drinking water supply in the Fifth Schedule areas. We visited the Utnur and Paderu divisions of Adilabad and Visakhapatnam districts over five days recently to study the water situation and the government’s response. The picture is truly alarming.

That there is a water crisis in the Utnur division since later March is a well-known fact, but what was shocking to us was the extent of its severity.  In all the villages we visited people complained of lack of water since several weeks. The hand pumps and wells had all but dried up and people were trudging several kms in blistering heat to get some water for drinking and their domestic needs. At some places, they were purchasing water from farmers whose agricultural wells had still not gone dry. In remote villages like Lodhiguda of Jainur mandal and Lendiguda in Utnur mandal, the Adivasis had no choice but to rely on water sources in the hills which are now invariably polluted and certainly unfit for consumption. Lack of water has already led to the death of cattle in several villages. 

Even more perturbing was the poor governmental response. The rural protected drinking water schemes are in shambles. The mini-water tanks under this scheme were functioning in just two of the 10 villages we visited and here too only a trickle was available to the residents forcing the poor to buy water. In many villages, the motor used to pump water to the tank from the source was in need to repair. Despite repeated appeals to concerned officials, no repair was taken up. The administration was supplying water of 20 litres per family per day only to just a few villages on the main roads but none to the others. This is nothing short of gross negligence and extreme callousness

District officials are doing precious little to remedy this situation except put out statements of intent and draw up contingency plans. The reality on the ground is that a basic necessity has not been ensured to the poorest of the poor. What is immediately required is supply of water by tanks to all villages in need. There must be a time-bound programme of repairing dysfunctional bores and digging and desilting of wells. As and where required new bores must be sunk.

We cannot underscore sufficiently the need to address this immediately. You may recall that in the year 1988 more than 2,500 persons, most of them Adivasis, died of gastroenteritis in Adilabad district. The deaths were the direct result of the lack of potable water. We fear such a tragedy may visit the region again unless there is urgent intervention.

The problem in the Paderu division of Visakhapatnam district is of a different kind. Here, because of the thickly forested Eastern Ghats, there is no lack of water even in peak summer. That does not mean the Adivasis are drinking clean water. For that to happen, the protected drinking water schemes must be in place. This has not happened and in village after village that we visited, including very remote habitations in the Hukumpet and Munchingput mandals, we found Adivasis consuming polluted water.

The best way to provide the tribals 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. In only one of the nine villages that we visited (Kinneralova in Hukumpet mandal) did we see this gravity scheme in place. Consequently, the khonds of that village have 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. Constancy of 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 themselves point this out and say it is the most appropriate and long-term solution to their drinking water needs but their repeated pleas for the same have gone unheeded.

We see no reason to believe that the situation in the other Fifth Schedule areas from Adilabad to Seetampeta in Srikakulam district is any better. Urgent steps are called for. You may recall that over 4,000 tribals died of cerebral malaria in Visakhapatnam district in the summer of 1999 and over 2,000 in the summer of 2005. The deaths were because they had no access to clean drinking water, inefficient and insufficient medicare, malnutrition leading to enfeebled resistance to disease, poor protection from mosquito bite, and atrocious public hygeine. The negligence of the State in its minimal administrative and welfare responsibilities is the proximate cause of these unconscionable deaths.

We request you to take serious note of the matter and to kindly take appropriate and urgent steps in this regard in the interests of the Adivasis.

Yours truly

S Jeevan Kumar
HRF State president

P Madhavi
HRF State Executive Committee member


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