The Nellapattu tank was a traditional irrigation tank for the villagers. Besides the surrounding area was being used for grazing purposes by the villagers. In 1997 the forest department (FD) took over the protection of the Nellapattu tank by declaring it a sanctuary. The intention to declare the sanctuary was notified on 15 September 1997 wide notification G.O. Ms. No. 107 and the completion of procedure took a period of about two years. The area of the sanctuary is 4.58 sq. km. It is now one of the 11 protected areas in Andhra Pradesh. The government did not consider the utility of the tank for the villagers while declaring it a sanctuary. The people of Nelapattu were not aware of this decision taken by the government. Later on, with the help of a local NGO called CAMEL, the villagers came to know about the notification and immediately submitted their concerns to the Mandal revenue officers and forest officials. On declaration of the sanctuary, the entire tank area of Nellapattu was fenced off. The entry was restricted only to those visitors who would come for bird-watching within a specified time during the day. These restrictions imposed by the FD have caused many hardships to the local villagers.
Subsequently, Nellapattu village was selected as one of the eco-development sites under the World Bank-supported Andhra Pradesh Forestry project. As part of this scheme an eco-development committee was formed in the village by the FD. Due to the availability of funds from the scheme, borewells were also dug for a few beneficiaries, which could only be utilized by the well-to-do villagers. In addition, smokeless chullahs and solar cookers were also distributed to the members of the Eco-Development Committees.
The eco-development scheme, however, does not address the fundamental issue of people’s access to the tank and their traditional relationship with the birds. The activities prescribed in the plan for village development are neither conceived nor designed with the help of the villagers. In Nellapattu the villagers complain of no scope for development of fodder and fuel requirements of the villagers. The digging of borewells has not been able to meet the diverse requirements of water for crops, cattle and the other needs of the entire village. The cattle grazing issue has also not been dealt with in the eco-development scheme. If the cattle are caught within the fenced area, the concerned villager has to pay a fine. In circumstances like these, many villagers have been compelled to sell their cattle. The villagers argue that they were the ones who offered protection to the birds before the FD came into the picture, and now the needs of the birds have taken priority over theirs.