Villagers in Eluru district oppose it as there is a risk of contamination of drinking water from the aqua farm

The spot in Kanukollu village of Mandavalli mandal in Eluru district where an attempt was made to dig an aquatic tank last week. , photo credit: N. Shravani

Fifty-year-old Mariyamma walks half a kilometer every day to her home carrying a 10-litre steel pot of water from a nearby well. Since she got married 25 years ago, she makes 20 such trips a day, 10 in the morning and 10 in the evening, and walks about ten kilometres.

Despite the tough task, Mariyamma, who hails from the SC community in Kanukollu village of Mandavalli mandal in Eluru district, does not complain. “There are others who walk more than a kilometer to get drinking water,” she says.

Ever since saline water started coming out of borewells three decades ago, everyone in the village has turned to wells for drinking water. She adds, “While four of the seven wells have become unfit for drinking due to large-scale aquaculture activities, the remaining three are also facing the threat of salinity.”

One of the wells, located in SC Colony, is the lifeline for the people of this community and four other villages – Puttalacheruvu, Chintalapudi, Gunnanapudi and Lellapudi.

While people from other castes have regular water supply at least for their daily needs, two SC colonies, home to 600 families, have not been given tap connections since the colonies came into existence in the 1980s Is. As a result, they have to carry several times more water from the well than people from other communities.

Furthermore, ten days ago, an attempt was made to dig a water tank on more than nine acres of fertile land adjacent to the colony; The place is barely 300 meters away from the well.

Fearing contamination of the only well in their colony, the villagers tried to lodge an FIR against the owner, P. Satyanarayana, whose wife is a member of the ruling party MPTC. However, the police allegedly refused to register an FIR and hurled casteist slurs at them and threatened to arrest them, the villagers alleged. However, Mandavalli sub-inspector P. Rama Krishna said they were only trying to bring the situation under control and did not verbally abuse anyone.

Mariyaraju, a daily wage laborer who filed a case against Mr. Satyanarayana in the High Court last week, said that in 2018 too there was an attempt to convert the land into a water farm. “But, these were stopped after we raised our voice. The aqua farm does not have any permission other than the temporary permission given five years ago.

When asked about it, Divisional Level Fisheries Development Officer (FDO) Srinivasa Rao accepted that Mr. Satyanarayana had not taken any fresh permission. “Since the matter is now in the High Court, no excavation will be done,” he said.

Human Rights Forum’s Y. Rajesh said that the farm does not follow several rules laid down in GO No. 7 which gives guidelines for the excavation of fresh water aqua farms. “Moreover, Section 3(g) of the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, which deals with polluting or interfering with water resources of the Dalit community, is applicable here,” he added. The owners of the surrounding agricultural fields were also not searched.

Besides, on paper, they say it is a fresh water aqua farm, but what they actually farm is shrimp, Mariyaraju said.

BV Seshagiri Rao, lecturer in zoology at BNR College in Rajamahendravaram, said shrimp farming requires partly fresh and partly brackish water. “Over time, the salt seeps into the ground and pollutes the water. Only desalination can make water clean, but the process is so expensive that no one tries it.