Dharmapuri/Krishnagiri (TN), May 8: What do a sizeable chunk of people in Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts have in common? Discoloured teeth, a manifestation of dental fluorosis found in the huge section of the populace, which the Hogenakkal Combined Drinking Water Supply and Fluorosis Mitigation Project is intended to tackle, besides providing potable water.
Besides discoloured teeth, they also suffer from conditions like skeletal fluorosis affecting the bones. "Look at my teeth" is the answer of V Mathaiyan of Pennagaram in Dharmapuri district when asked about implementation of the project.
In essence, alleged deficiencies in the distribution and implementation of the much talked-about Hogenakkal project is the single biggest poll issue in the western districts of Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri for the May 16 Assembly election.
While the ruling AIADMK claims it has successfully implemented the project, DMK alleges it was "scuttled" as the plan was "conceived" by it during it's previous regime. Besides the water issue, continuing migration of youth to other cities, including Bengaluru and Tirupur for jobs, insufficient availability of water for agri and horticultural needs and lack of new job opportunities are the top poll issues in these two neighbouring districts.
Mathaiyan says if people had properly got fluoride free water from Hogenakkal issues like dental fluorosis would have vanished.
Notably, reports like that of Central Ground Water Board too had recorded more than permissible limit of fluoride in Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts. A top Tamil Nadu Public Health official who did not wish to be named says that once teeth discolouration occurs due to fluorosis it can be corrected only through cosmetic treatment.
"People falsely believe that once they get good water, discolouration due to previous contamination would go," he said.
"On frequency of water supply, Mathaiyan says "water supply is quite erratic. The frequency of supply is once in three days or even more," he said, adding that in some localities like his, which are on a relatively elevated plain, the water supply becomes even more difficult.
Many others echoed his view, including farmers in Donnakuttahalli Panchayat, residents of Koothapadi Panchayat and people in villages off Uthangari in Krishnagiri district.