They live right in the womb of nature at its best, yet they are deprived of basic needs such as safe drinking water even in the middle of monsoon season. It’s not the problem that has cropped up overnight but one that recurs every year.
What’s needed is not huge funding since taking up regular drinking water schemes, including the ongoing Mission Bhagiratha scheme, are not feasible due to the high-altitude and hilly terrain of the sparse habitations in the forest but a little bit of humane approach among the officials concerned.
Yes, they are none other than the primitive tribal group, Chenchus, in the Nallamala forest areas in Nagarkurnool district. The primitive tribe is either on the verge of extinction or in for complete transformation with the influence of the life in the plains.
About 2,000 people in 15 Chenchu habitations — known as ‘pentas’ locally — in Amrabad, Balmoor and Lingala areas are facing drinking water problem even in the middle of monsoon season that has already brought good rains. With the tubewells sunk for providing drinking water to the tribes turning defunct due to tree-root mass jamming either the motor inside or plugging or obstructing the water flow, the Chenchus have been forced to depend on unsafe natural water sources — streams, ponds and small fresh water springs (‘chelimalu’).
Chenchu pentas such as Appapur, Pullayapalli, Rampur, Medimolkala, Bhowrapur, Thangidi Gundala, Eendla Penta, Linga Bhodi, Mallapur and others are forced to depend on a couple solar-power pumps fitted to borewells to get the safe water or the unsafe water as the solar pumps function only when there’s sufficient sunlight. However, even the sunlight is scarce now in monsoon season with the skies covered with clouds most of the day-time.
“With most of the borewells have gone defunct and lack of water supply through tankers, we are forced fend ourselves on unsafe water, which is available even at 2-3 km away for some pentas,” says Patnama Guravaiah of Appapur. He goes on to add that their small number is a bane and reason for their neglect by the elected representatives or even those in the opposition.
Adding to the views of Mr. Guravaiah, Ravi of Pullayapalli said: “Since the total votes of these Chenchu pentas are hardly 700, no politician is interested in sparing their time or thought for us. What we need is supply of water through tankers and installation of new solar pump-sets since they have become defunct in most of the habitations for about two years now.”
When contacted, in-charge Project Officer of Mannanur ITDA Akhilesh Reddy, District Tribal Welfare Officer of Nagarkurnool, admitted to the existence of the problem in some Chenchu pentas. “The ITDA has no funds meant for drinking water needs and it’s the Rural Water Supply Department/Mission Bhagiratha that would handle the matter. It has already ordered for 15 new solar pumps and they would installed as soon as possible,” he explained.
The official said one tanker was already pressed into service on Monday. However, the movement of tankers too is difficult in the rainy season since there are no motorable roads in the forests.