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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Metros neck deep in murky water in India

New Delhi: Over 1,600 people die of water-borne diseases like diarrhoea and Hepatitis in India every day.

A CNN-IBN and Consumer Voice special investigation reveals that the quality of water supplied by municipal corporations in India's metros is unfit for consumption and can cause potentially fatal diseases.

Scientists from an National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited lab, the Food Research Analysis Centre in Delhi, collected water samples from Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai and tested them for the level of contamination.

With chemical and microbial contamination within acceptable limits, water sample collected from Mumbai fared best. In Delhi, samples taken from a Delhi Jal Board tanker, showed high levels of the disease-causing Coliform bacteria.

In Chennai, Coliform bacteria and E Coli pathogen, responsible for several water-borne diseases, were present in most samples. The water samples also showed high iron contamination.

Almost 42 per cent of the water samples collected from Kolkata recorded hardness, and some showed unsafe levels of Coliform bacteria.

"This is not acceptable by any standards. The maximum permissible limit is 10,000 and Coliform organisms of more than 11,000 is just unacceptable. The level of E coli, which is pathogenic, found in the water is 11,000," says Prof L M Nath, a public health expert.

Clearly, the water supplied to consumers by the Chennai Municipality is unfit for human consumption, showing dangerously high levels of E coli and Coliform bacteria.

"The contamination happens particularly where the pipes are old and leaky. They run alongside a drain or sewage and because we do not have continuous water supply, so when the water pump goes off, then the pressure in the pipe gets low and it starts to suck sewage," explains Prof Nath.

"The sewage water is mixed with the metro water pipelines. You can actually see the black dust in the water supply in the building in this area," says Senthil Kumar, a resident of Chennai.

Other residents like R Gonnaraj say they are scared to use this water. "That is why, we buy water from outside for drinking," he says.

Consumers in Kolkata as well, are being supplied water that is unfit for consumption.

"None of us have got the confidence on the level of purity that is required for the water to be suitable for drinking," says J M Ganguly, a resident of Kolkata.

Microbial contamination of municipal water supply make consumers in India's metro cities vulnerable to water-borne diseases like Diarrhoea and Hepatitis.

Rusting water pipelines and poor maintenance of the water distribution system infrastructure, further contaminate the water. "Now, if this type of result is not spreading Hepatitis, then it is just God's grace," says Prof Nath.

If the Government cannot provide safe drinking water in the four Metros, one wonders the quality of water in the rest of the country.

(With Raksha Shetty in Mumbai, Rohini Mohan in Chennai, Saugata Mukhopadhay in Kolkata)

This report came from CNN-IBN, India. The reader's comments also verified this report.

I live in Railway Flats, Basant Lane, Cannaught Place, New Delhi. We get water supply of 10 minutes in a day. 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening. The water pressure is so low that we have to install motor on the 1st Floor to pump in water. The water is murky with a faul smell. Everyone in my family was sick now and then. We spent around Rs 15,000/- to get a reverse osmosis water purifier installed so that we can drink the murky water. Its a great irony that we live so near to so called hub of the city and we are forced to consume this sort of water supply. The plight of rest of Delhihites can be imagined.

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