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ANDHRA PRADESH

Chittoor district craves for drinking water

Saturday 28 May 2005, by DEVARAJAN*A.

A monsoon-less year for the fifth consecutive time vouches for the alarming situation A monsoon-less year for the fifth consecutive time causes alarming situation

TIRUPATI: The semi-arid Chittoor district, located as it is in the rain-shadow trough, is in the grip of acute drinking water scarcity. Though parched throats, dysfunctional borewells and dried up tanks are no new phenomenon, the fact that it is passing through a monsoon-less year for the fifth consecutive time makes all the difference and gives the problem an alarming dimension.

Nothing else will vouch for the gravity of situation more than the fact that the district, as on date, has the largest number of water tankers in the State to ferry water to its 480 villages and urban conglomerates like Tirupati, Chittoor and Madanapalle.

If at all people are getting at least a five or six pitchers of water daily, it is only because of private tank operators and some enterprising businessmen who have dug up deep borewells on the outskirts of the town and are selling water for Rs. 300 to Rs. 500 a tanker, depending upon their size. It is a different matter that they are making a fast buck in the process. But, given the situation, they cannot be blamed because municipalities/panchayats neither have the required number of functional borewells nor the tankers to meet the demand.

For instance, in Chittoor, the district headquarters town located 65 km from here, in addition to the 100 tankers being operated by the municipality, 120 private tankers also are on the job. Further, as against 45-lakh gallons of drinking water required per day, the municipality is not able to meet even half the requirement. Even the municipality is said to be buying water from private tankers to meet the shortage. Private operators in Chittoor town are charging Re. 1 per pitcher and this is cheaper than the rate prevailing in Madanapalle, the worst hit municipality, where scramble and skirmishes for water is a daily feature. Even a poor and lower-middle class family in the district is forced to cough-up a minimum of Rs. 300 to Rs. 400 every month on the water bill alone.

Only hope

It is not that the Government is not doing anything to tackle the situation on a permanent footing in Chittoor town. It is constructing the Kaluvakunta reservoir, 10 km upstream, at an estimated cost of Rs. 80 crores. A stone is also laid by the Chief Minister for the Rs.115-crore scheme to supply Telugu Ganga water to Chittoor town. On completion of these projects, the town would have copious water, says a municipal official.

The position is no better in Tirupati. And what is compounding the problem is the undeclared power cut being enforced in the tail end of the district.

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