Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ORISSA WATER: Left in the Lurch

IIPM Proves Its Mettle Once Again...

Contaminated drinking water maims many villagers
Two villages of Khurdha district ' Balsing and Singpur ' just 65 kilometres from Bhubaneswar, Orissa, are making news. Most of the villagers living in these regions suffer from a mysterious disease because of the presence of higher level of fluorine in the drinking water here.

Ganesh Baliarsingh, 18, doesn't look young. Any person can mistake him for a 37-year-old man. He suffers from a disease that has its toll on his age. There are many like him in these villages. Sukant, 24, the sole bread earner of his family, can't go to the nearest town Bolagarh or Khurdha for work as his body has become stiff. Fluorosis has crippled him. There are about some 50 people like him in these villages. The villagers tryst with this dreadful disease started in mid-eighties. Since then many of their youngsters have suffered. They face health problems like stiffness of body and deformity of bones from an early age. Doctors and authorities, who visited the area, said the presence of fluorine in drinking water has wreaked havoc.

All hell broke in 2002 when some five villagers died, four of them women. About 50 patients were admitted to a hospital due to fluorosis. The incident got overwhelming media coverage. Pressure was mounted on the local government to address the burning issue. But the state health directorate said people get sick because they drink contaminated water. Till now the government has done little to address the catastrophe. Now the situation is such that the locals have lost all hope. When this reporter visited these villages he was confronted by hostile villagers. 'Why are you here? We don't need any coverage. The media has defamed us. Now, no marriage proposals come for our children. Newspapers and television channels have reported our misery several times, but nothing good has happened. The government is yet to act,' say villagers.

But this is not the case. The government's attempt in 1992 to combat the crisis has failed to yield positive results. To solve the problem, the district administration dug three tube wells. Also, the administration constructed a pump house to supply safe drinking water to the villagers.

Besides, the villagers were advised not to use water from the wells. But the project to build a pump in the village never materialised. Prahalad Baliarsingh, ward member of the village, said: 'Now the government only supplies 30 litre of water per family in two days, which is insufficient. The dearth of water forces villagers to bank on tube wells for their day-to-day need like drinking and cooking food. Thus they expose themselves to the killer water.'

When the government realised that solving the problem would be cumbersome it asked the villagers to relocate. So far only two families have shifted. The rest are reluctant to move.

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