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Industrialization and Water Distress: Story of Erdhanur Thanda

Erdhanur Thanda, a tribal hamlet, forms a part of Erdhanur Gram Panchayat of Sangareddy district in Telangana. The hamlet has sixty Lambadi (tribal community) households traditionally practicing agriculture and cattle rearing. Since early 1990s regional economic policies of the state government has altered the life and livelihoods of this marginalized community. Historically they have been dependent on Nakkavagu (vagu means stream) and Turkam cheruvu (cheruvu is local terminology for tank) for water and pastures. With the coming of Pantancheru industrial enclaves in the vicinity, vast tracks of land were appropriated by chemical and pharmaceutical companies. Around 150 acres of the village agriculture land was acquired for setting up of HFL Company and Al Kabeer mechanized slaughterhouse in the village. The upper catchment of the river and cheruvus got encroached and several inlet channels were blocked disrupting the cascading system and the water flow to the lower reaches. Dumping of harmful industrial wastes polluted the surface water and open fields making it unsuitable for domestic, irrigation or livestock use. Turkam cherevu started drying up and Nakkavagu became a cesspool of pollutants. Dependence on groundwater through private borewells increased substantially, soon to realize that the pollution also affected the aquifer conditions.

Situation started aggravating with the loss of livestock due to consumption of contaminated water. Degrading and disappearing surface water bodies, acute water pollution has made land price drastically less leaving them with no choice but to stay in the village. Entrapped and uprooted from its natural setting, they are forced to dependent on the mercy of the industrial elites and local government. It was during this period that a larger people’s movement against the pollution began led by the Patancheru anti pollution committee. This committee had representation from sixteen villages that were being affected by the pollution and hundreds of people came forward to voice their concerns to curb pollution and for provision of safe drinking water. In response to this Supreme Court in 1995 had directed the Government of Andhra Pradesh to provide drinking water to the affected villages from the government budget. Although the thanda was not a part of the movement it received Manjeera water, as the village was en-route to other villages that were a part of the movement. Two common standposts, serve the water needs for the Thanda, where water comes every alternate day for 2 hours in the morning. Due to heavy ground water pollution the villagers use Manjeera water both for drinking and domestic needs that has created additional burden on women for fetching large quantities of water within a short duration which sometimes results in missing out of a day’s work.

Thanda thus demonstrates how regional industrial policies are playing out in the peripheries of Hyderabad. It narrates the story of the consequences of haphazard industrialization on water security of the sixty most vulnerable Lambadi families. The case feeds well into the wider debate of the role of cities in the post liberalization context.

By Poulomi Banerjee and Monica Priya


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