Article Courtesy of A. Satish|The New Indian Express|October 13, 2014|Shared as Educational Material
PALAKKAD: Shortage of drinking water continues to be the number one woe in Attappadi. Corruption, lack of planning and political connivance are the main factors behind this perennial problem. Outstanding arrears of more than Rs 61 lakh are still pending to the contractors for supplying drinking water on wheels in the current year alone when it could have been used to commission one or two schemes.
Despite the implementation of a large number of drinking water supply schemes under the aegis of the Jalanidhi, three-tier panchayat raj and the Attappadi Hills Area Development Society (AHADS), the people of Attappadi are supplied water in tanker lorries, most of which is filled from the Bhavani river and the Varagayar without even proper purification, says a local scribe P V Jayaprakash.
“We will pay the pending dues to the contractors once we receive it from the government. Last year, we incurred only a sum of Rs 18.50 lakh towards supplying drinking water in lorries, but this time as there was shortage of rainfall the bill has been on the higher side,” says Mannarkad tahsildar P Gopalakrishnan.
The project paper prepared by the Kerala Water Authority which was entrusted by the government to solve the drinking water issue says, “The very concept of demand driven approach of the Jalanidhi schemes in Attappadi is misplaced and irrational, resulting in poor service delivery in the water supply sector.
“It shows the stark reality of how Attappadi is reeling under a severe water crisis even during the monsoon and the tribals are provided raw water directly pumped from the river without proper treatment and disinfection.”
Says executive engineer of the Palakkad division of the Kerala Water Authority R Jayachandran, “We have prepared a comprehensive scheme costing Rs 40 crore for which administrative sanction has been received.”
He further added, “It had a design period of 30 years with 2014 as the base year to cater to a population of 1,15,942.
“The proposal is to utilise the rich surface source of perennial Bhavani river which runs through Agali and Pudur panchayats. A 10 MLD water treatment plant and 12 LL master service reservoir are proposed at Kavundickal in Agali panchayat. The scheme area has 235 kilometres of distribution network with 749 public hydrants and 5,267 water service connections.”
He said that the project can cover 88 of the 184 tribal settlements in Attappadi block with pipe water supply.
The overseer at the Kerala Water Authority office in Agali Cherian said that the 108 Jalanidhi schemes have been taken over by the Water Authority on the directions of the government. Most of these schemes depend on the natural source of water, the mouths of which have been damaged by wild elephants. These were also being repaired.
Around 51 schemes are under various stages of implementation as they have been in disuse due to various reasons like the breaking of distribution pipelines, damage to pump sets, to cite a few.
Regional director of Jalanidhi based in Malappuram Narendra Dev said “Most of the Jalanidhi schemes are non-functional in Attappadi as the beneficiary committees have failed to pay the power bills and the KSEB has disconnected the supply.
“The local grama panchayats and the Kerala Water Authority are in the process of reviving them.”
The beneficiary committees of Jalanidhi do not collect the monthly tariff payable by consumers. For some of the schemes, overhead tanks were built without distribution pipelines. The primary health centre and tribal hostel in Pudur are still being supplied drinking water in tanker lorries, adds Jayaprakash.
The drinking water schemes of Narassimukku and Kavundikkal based on Bhavani and Karara sourced from a local pond were yet to be completed. Tanker lorries supply water in Kunnanchola and Kottamedu in tanker lorries.
Moreover, Attappadi Hills Area Development Society was opposed to constructing check dams in the Bhavani river to pump out drinking water, said the president of the Agali panchayat E J Antony.