As jaundice continues to spread its tentacles in Shimla town, people, especially migrant labourers are still consuming water from ‘banned’ natural sources despite administration’s written warning.
Government record states that over 800 people have been left sick due to jaundice outbreak in Shimla in over a month, while the actual number is almost double of it. Of total 25 municipal wards, four — Chota Shimla, New Shimla, Malyana and Kasumpati (areas merged recently in the town) — are worse affected. Shimla district administration and Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) jointly started awareness campaign in the town to sensitise people about the disease. The MC also declared water from all natural sources as ‘Unsafe’.
But only the people, who can afford to spend money, are purchasing purifiers and mineral water. But, those who have arrived here to earn livelihood as labourers from other states are in bad state. These people are still consuming water from ‘bawris’- (natural water source,) which is feared to be contaminated in newly merged areas due to unplanned sanitation system.
“We have heard about jaundice, but have no other option than consuming this water,” Rattan Bahadur, a Nepalese living in Sanjauli area, said.
Though district administration has asked contractors to supply safe water to the labourers, nothing has been done to ensure its implementation.
There are 49 ‘bawris’ in Shimla town. In newly merged area- worst affected by jaundice outbreak, people use water from these sources for their daily consumption.
Shimla MC commissioner Pankaj Rai said, “Written advisory on not using bawri water for drinking has been pasted. We have painted the advisory on the walls of bawris. There were reports of even removing the warning from walls. We have written that water from this source is not safe for drinking, but at some places, some anti-social elements have removed the word ‘No’ from the advisory.”
Water contamination a general problem in town
Problem of water contamination is not new to Shimla. Several times unplanned sewerage systems contaminate drinking water leading to various water-borne diseases. Grey water (kitchen waste) is also not connected to sewage line at several places and is being drained in open.
An irrigation and public health (IPH) official said, “Only 70%-75% habitation is connected by sewerage lines and sewage from rest of the houses finds its way to natural drainage or streams directly or via age old septic tanks, which is the main reason behind contamination of natural water sources. Shimla MC is on a spree to check the houses with no sewerage connection.
“The MC’s sewage network is in around 80% area of the town. Several households have not availed the facility. Even notices have been given to 107 households to avail sewage connections and due to negative response; three water connections have also been disconnected,” Pankaj Rai said.
Not only those, but people having septic tank for the sewage disposal do not have soak pit resulting in overflow of sewage and leading to water contamination.