Death fails to wake up MC authorities

  • Shaheen P Parshad, Hindustan Times, Amritsar
  • Updated: May 06, 2014 13:20 IST

A day after Gurpreet Singh (12) died afte consuming contaminated water in the Kot Mahna Singh area, the Amritsar municipal corporation authorities remained nonchalant over the issue of water contamination affecting the city even as the development spurred a team of the health department, which visited the area on Monday, into action.

All that the MC officials did in the name of redressing the problem was distributing chlorine tablets among the residents through a team of officials, who visited the area.

Besides blaming the residents for their own fault, the officials severed connections in areas where water contamination was suspected that, too, at a time when unhindered water supply is an absolute necessity for the residents due to intense heat wave.

The deceased minor boy had been suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting caused by consumption of contaminated water for the past few days.

As per Dr Usha Bansal, civil surgeon, Amritsar, this is the first death due to consumption of contaminated water in the district this year. She said a team of experts had been sent to the area to examine other patients and take water samples.

“Consumption of dirty water mainly causes diseases like diarrhoea, jaundice and liver-related ailments, but Gurpreet Singh’s case is the first to surface this year,” she said. As the summer peaks ailments caused by water contamination are also likely to increase. On Monday, the city sweltered at 42.4 degrees C.

The past few days have witnessed more than a couple of deaths, mainly those of unidentified mendicants. With the sun turning a scorcher, health experts in the city are advising the residents to consume ample amount water to keep dehydration at bay, as a result of which the consumption of water is likely to increase and so will the diseases caused by consumption of contaminated water.

However, the tap water that residents across the city are required to pay for in the form of monthly bills is absolutely unfit for drinking purposes as most of supply pipes in the city are old, leaking and rusted and run adjacent to sewers.

With the authorities concerned paying little or no regard to rectifying the decaying system of water supply in t he walled city area, the residents of a majority of localities here have no choice, but to consume contaminated water.

Besides Kot Mahna Singh, areas as Basti Isaiyan, Gali Valtoha, Gali Chood Singh are also affected with the problem of water contamination. The contamination occurs as both the water supply and sewerage pipes run adjacent to each other. Slightest leakage in any of the pipes causes mixing of potable and dirty water. When consumed the contaminated water causes ailments.

According to Kanwal Nail Singh Gullu, a Congress leader and a former councillor of the area, the problem had been brought to the notice of the MC authorities many times, but in vain. Brij Bedi, a social activist, has urged the government to moot a scheme on the lines of the one intended for villages in Punjab, to provide low-cost RO-purified water to the residents of the affected areas. “Special RO systems can be installed in affected areas and clean water can be provided to the residents at economical
rates,” he said.

In 2011, jaundice hit Maqboolpura and Verka and a few residents died after contracting the ailment caused due to the consumption of contaminated water. In 2010, diarrhoea had claimed lives of two women in Eshwar Nagar locality on Tarn Taran road.

Contamination of drinking water is just one side of the picture. The city also suf fers from water shortage. More than 20% populace is still deprived of the gover nment water supply despite claims of the civic authorities of taking measures to provide 100% water supply.

What’s more, the city’s daily water needs are i ncreasing with an increase in the population. The city is consuming 175 litre per capita per day of water, resulting in overdrawl of 145% and 350 tubewells are drawing water f ro m underground resources around the clock, which is quite alarming, according to the MC authorities.

Not only is the proverbial ‘elixir of life’ is contaminated, it is also in short supply, with the little quantity of water that is available being subjected to wastage.

Water wastage can be seen at Friends Colony, behind the office of the District Transport Officer (DTO), Gawal Mandi area, office of the irrigation department and in the complex housing the residences of the officials of the department.

The issue has time and again been raised by Mission Aagaaz, an NGO dedicated to environmental concerns. Deepak Babbar, president, Mission Aagaaz, said as per the calculations conducted by their NGO, 1 litre of water is wasted in a span of a mere 12 seconds, five litre in one minute, 300 litre in one hour, 1,800 litre in six hours, 54,000 litre in a month and 6.48 lakh litre in a year.

“This is the assessment of the amount of water wasted at one point,” he said. However, additional commissioner (technical) Jaswinder Singh said all the open ended pipes were plugged as and when these came to the notice of the MC.

If municipal commissioner DPS Kharbanda is to be believed, the Punjab water supply and sewerage board authorities have undertaken works worth 6 crore in the walled city area to overhaul the system of water supply lines.

“Works worth 11.25 crore are being undertaken there to provide sewerage facility too. A fresh project report in this regard has been sent to the central government,” he said. Kharbanda held the residents responsible for water contamination, saying it is they who get their water supply pipes laid close to the sewerage pipes, which sullies the potable water supply.

He added that a medical camp had been held in Kot Mahna Singh on Monday, while chlorine tablets were also distributed among the residents.

The team of officials sent to the area by the MC, included executive engineer, sewerage department, Paramjit Singh; executive engineer Navtej Singh, additional commissioner (technical) Jaswinder Singh and MC’s health officer Dr Yogesh Arora.

Additional commissioner (technical) Jaswinder Singh said recently the MC had disconnected 14 connections in areas where water contamination was suspected.

“These areas include Kot Mahna Singh, Gali Pippal Wali and Gali Ikram Singh,” he said, adding that tankers have been sent to the area and residents have been urged not to consume the tap water.

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