Fetching drinking water from oozing pits (chelamas) is a common practice in Boddavaram village of Kotananduru mandal in East Godavari district even today.

At every election the village folk are promised safe drinking water.

But once the polls are over, the promise is forgotten. Carrying a potful of water on her head, Doddi Varalakshmi of the village says residents walk nearly one-and-ahalf kilometers to get water from the oozing pits in Tandava river bed. Rain or shine, it is the daily routine of all women, including Indira, the wife of former village sarpanch Y Venkata Ramana. She is seen going to the river along with her children to fetch water.

In rainy season, women venture into the flowing stream, sometimes with neck-deep water, to reach the pits.

The irony is that the village with a population of around 4,000, which was declared ‘Indiramma Adarsa village’, does have water supply but with such high fluoride content that the users are falling prey to various diseases.

“Many people fell ill due to the fluoride content in the drinking water being supplied through taps in the village. As a result, the villagers are forced to depend on the oozing pits in the Tandava river,’’ Indira complains. Tommandru Devi, a seventh class student, says every morning she has to fetch water from the pits and then rush to school. “There is no other alternative.

We cannot drink the fluoride- affected tap water,’’ she reasons.

Narrating his experience, a septuagenarian, Yellapu Pedaramurthy, says he was hale and healthy as long as he drank water from the oozing pits. But when he started drinking tap water, he developed a knee problem and became bandy-legged. At least a hundred villagers are suffering from fluoride- related diseases. Leaders and officials have been promising remedial measures for the past several years but nothing has materialised so far, he laments.

The former sarpanch hopes that a Rs 9-lakh scheme to supply water from the Tandava river to the village will bail them out. He has learnt that the scheme has secured the government nod.

Meanwhile, agency areas of Rampachodavaram, Addateegala, Rajavommangi, Sankhavaram and Devipatnam, where the tribal inhabitants are dependent on hill streams for their supplies, are facing acute water shortage. Many villages in upland mandals of the district and the coastal Konaseema region too are experiencing water scarcity. Many diarrhoea cases are being reported in these places.

Rural Water Supply superintending engineer RMR Dayal says 130 habitations have been identified in the district where there is a possibility of drinking water shortage. The shortage becomes severe after the closure of canals in the delta region, he explains.

Following the death of a few people due to water contamination in Hyderabad recently, the officials are taking precautionary measures like testing water samples at vulnerable places for possible contamination.