Wednesday, April 11, 2012

53 acres of an important resource, Now a village anguish

Peerancheru, a village located close to the Outer Ring Road has had a massive real estate boom. But the pitiable state of the Peerancheru lake has masked the blessing of development in this region........

Photograph 1
As I was entering into the village, I really wondered if this place can still be called a village. I was welcomed by high rise buildings; and also majority of the houses were more than two floors. I noticed that these buildings were all new, with latest designs mostly built in the last two years (Photograph 1). It was very evident that small, old styled houses were slowly being replaced by these modern, chic houses. For once, I thought that I was in a place just like any other urban colony. But then, a hard reality struck to me, when I saw a man  carrying a water vessel over his shoulder walking towards his home. I also noticed a motorcyclist carrying an Ibibo water can. As I slowly moved to the centre of village, I saw women carrying these heavy water vessels and walking long distances!

Photograph 2
At the Gram Panchayat, we noticed two community water tanks. One tank stored the fresh water, while the other one stored the bore water (salt water). The bore water tank has an altitude of around 30 feet. Around the fresh water tank, I spotted a group of women (Photograph 2) who had gathered to collect water. It was a pitiable sight to see a woman aged around 60 years carrying water to her home. With such good housing facilities, I was inquisitive to know their water situation. On enquiring, I was shocked to hear that these people are supplied with drinking water once in a week, once in twenty days or even once in a month! And hence, most often, they are left with no choice but to consume salt water, when they are devoid of the fresh water. Some households have direct pipelines to their homes; supplying both freshwater as well as the salt water. But, these women do not depend upon the pipeline, since they are very well aware of the erratic supply of water. Everyday, these women spend about one and a half hours in transporting this precious resource to their homes.

Photograph 3
Photograph 4
Finally after seeing the ground reality, it was time for us to interact with few of the officials & the village representatives. Peerancheru lake is a very precious resource for the people of this village. Only if this lake is full, the bore wells are fully recharged and water problems in the village will be solved. But, it has been more than 20 years since the lake has been used as a source of drinking water. The villagers felt very nostalgic remembering those days when the lake was a vital part of their lives. It served as a source of drinking water as well as other domestic purposes. Down the lane, few communities also had been benefitted from the lake, where fishes were cultivated as a livelihood option. But now, the situation has changed so drastically over the years that this lake can’t even be used for washing clothes (Photograph 4). Fishing activity could not be continued as the fishes could not survive the highly polluted water. Moreover, it was also very dangerous for humans to consume fish grown in such toxic water.

There are three reasons for the pollution of the lake.
  1.  The Andhra Pradesh Police Academy (APPA) releases its effluents into the lake (Photograph 5);
  2. The waste from the slaughter houses is being dumped in the vicinity of the lake (Photograph 6). In the process, the runoff from this waste is leading to the contamination of the water.
  3.  The third and the most important reason for the pollution of the lake is the release of effluents from a big private hospital – Shadan Hospital
Photograph 5
Photograph 6
The villagers claimed that even after repeated complaints and pleadings to the concerned government departments/officials regarding the release of the effluents into the lake, no action has been taken place.  Adding to the plight is the dumping of waste in the periphery of the lake by the slaughter houses. The waste is also dumped in an area which is just above the drinking water pipeline. In the past, the drinking water got contaminated with the leachate from the waste. The pipeline had to be repaired and the drinking water supply had to be halted for few days. Huge waste is also dumped along the circumference of the lake. This waste is also deposited in the open effluent discharge pipeline (APPA Effluent pipeline), thus carrying the waste with its effluent stream into the lake (Photograph 7). This runoff is the reason for increase in the turbidity, odour as well as the BOD in the lake.

Photograph 7
Photograph 8
The biggest source of pollution in the lake is the Shadan Hospital which releases its chemical effluents into the lake. On careful observations, we can clearly identify the oil-water interface on the surface of the water (Photograph 8). The villagers have been fighting over this issue for quite a few years. These people have left no stone unturned to meet bureaucrats, officials, representatives, etc, pleading for protecting the lake from the noxious effluents. The representatives of the village articulate that the hospital has big political backup due to which all their pleas and complaints have been turned down leaving them extremely helpless and vulnerable. 
However, some citizens of the village are still hopeful of justice in their favour, some day in the future. It’s good to see these brave people fighting against highly influential people for their basic rights to clean waters.

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