On Wednesday when Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa launches the Hogenakkal Drinking Water Scheme through videoconferencing from Chennai, she would not only be fulfilling a long pending dream of the people of Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts but also bring alive the vision of her mentor and late Chief Minister M G Ramachandran.
The ambitious Rs 1,928 crore scheme, which is being implemented with Japanese funding, as part of a Fluorosis Mitigation Project, was first conceived by the visionary Chief Minister K Kamaraj in the early sixties. However, the project lay buried for over 25 years until MGR dusted old files and revived it in 1986.
Though the subsequent DMK government headed by M Karunanidhi did its bit to ensure that the project was implemented to provide potable drinking water to people of two of Tamil Nadu’s most backward districts, it was Jayalalithaa who had finally given life to it. People of the two districts have been suffering from fluorosis due to consumption of heavily contaminated water.
In the past, the Tamil Nadu Water and Drainage Board (TWAD) had sealed hand pumps and borewells to prevent people from consuming fluoride mixed water. Incidentally, local cadres of the CPI led by then taluk secretary N Nanjappan had spearheaded several agitations for getting the scheme commissioned and also for establishing a Hydel Power Plant in the then composite Dharmapuri district from 1977 onwards.
The project hit a major hurdle when Japan had stopped financial funding after India tested nuclear weapons at Pokhran in May 1998. Later, during the DMK’s regime the then Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin managed to revive the funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa too extended cooperation and the project was kick-started in right earnest in June 2008. But by then the project cost had escalated to `1,928.08 crore.
Hogenakkal Rights Protection Committee president P R Athipathi hailed the State Government for implementing the scheme.
Meanwhile, DMK functionaries have staked credit for implementing the project. Former Pennagaram MLA PNP Inbasekaran demanded the plaque that would be unveiled on Wednesday must also duly acknowledge the role of his party leader and former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi in reviving the project and security Japanese funding.