Negligence on the part of governments has led to jaundice outbreak in Shimla, as they have always remained insensitive towards the sanitation issue, which is evident form the fact that recommendations given after the disease outbreak nine years ago are yet to be implemented.
Several reports since 2007 have been pointing out discrepancies in the sewage treatment system, but governments — Centre and state — remained unmoved and covering up the issue.
Police team in its investigation found grave discrepancies in the functioning of sewage treatment plant. Not only this, but working of irrigation and public health (IPH) department, which is responsible for the monitoring of the STP, is also under scanner.
Authorities today have been toiling hard to dig out the reason of jaundice outbreak. Be it Shimla police constituted special investigation team or other agencies, all have been pointing towards the sanitation issue and foul disposal of sewage that is leading to water contamination in Ashwani Khadd — one of the significant source of water to Shimla town.
These findings are not new as jaundice outbreak affects hundreds of people in Shimla every year. In 2007, a team from National Institute of Virology, Pune, visited Shimla to study jaundice outbreak. Members of the team LP Chobe and VA Arankalle collected samples and found that jaundice cases were mainly reported from the areas getting water supply from Ashwani khad. Same story is being narrated by investigation agencies today.
The NIV report read: “The population under study belonged to the locality of Shimla receiving drinking water from a single water supply system. Mixing of effluent water from the sewage treatment plant into the water four-kilometre upstream the collection point of this water supply system and lapses in the chlorination treatment seem to be the major causes of this outbreak.”
To avoid such outbreaks in future, there is a need of disposal of sewage water after the collection point of the water treatment plant and adequate chlorination of drinking water.
Shimla municipal corporation commissioner Pankaj Rai said he had asked MC officials to study the report of National Institute of Virology. “We have been initiating several steps mentioned in that report. We will study it and do the needful,” he said.
Police investigation revealed that STP at Malyana was defunct and leading to water contamination in the Ashwani Khad. Supervisor and junior engineer were arrested for dereliction of duty. Not only forged entries were made in the supervising register at STP, but water quality was deliberately ignored at the water supply system.
What was the pollution control board doing?
People have also been questioning the role of HP State Pollution Control Board. However, Board clarified that they have issued notice to the IPH recently. But, as the police probe suggested that STP was not functioning perfectly since long, Board’s role become questionable.
Isn’t it contempt of court?
Himachal Pradesh high court in 2007 had directed state government to take various steps to ensure clean water supply to Shimla town. But so far, these orders have not been complied with in full letter and spirit. Government was directed to construct a road till treatment plant, which has not been done till now. Besides, governement was asked to adopt the mechanism to suck out sludge from the treatment plant, but all in vain.