Govt apathy led to jaundice outbreak, says NIV report

SHIMLA: *The NIV, in its study on the hepatitis outbreak in Shimla in 2007, had recommended the relocation of the water collection point of the Ashwani Khud and proper chlorination of water system

Govt apathy led to jaundice outbreak, says NIV report

The sewage treatment plant in Malyana. A File photo

editorial@tribune.com

Suggestions ignored

*The NIV, in its study on the hepatitis outbreak in Shimla in 2007, had recommended the relocation of the water collection point of the Ashwani Khud and proper chlorination of water system

*Even a high court-appointed committee in July 2009 had asked the government to take 21 measures to maintain not only the Malyana plant, but also other plants in the city.

*There is no hepatitis-E testing facility with the IPH Department, Shimla MC, IGMC and the State Pollution and Control Board

Kuldeep Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, February 17

The reports on the jaundice outbreak in Shimla and Solan submitted to the state government by the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have again exposed the systemic failure on part of state agencies and lack of testing facility for virus detection in water.

The reports have found that the Malyana sewage treatment plant, whose functioning was outsourced to Akshay Doegar, contractor, by the IPH Department for Rs 78.51 lakh, has turned out to be the major source of contamination of the Ashwani Khud water source of Shimla and Solan as all water samples have failed.

The NIV, in its study on the hepatitis outbreak in Shimla in 2007, had recommended the relocation of the water collection point of the Ashwani Khud and proper chlorination of water system, but government agencies did little to rectify system.

Even a high court-appointed committee in July 2009 had asked the government to take 21 measures to maintain not only the Malyana plant, but also other plants in the city. But the successive BJP and Congress governments did nothing to put these measures in place, said a virologist.

The state government had adopted water quality control manual 2013, but had done nothing to upgrade the testing and maintenance infrastructure to monitor the plants in the city and other parts of the state. The SIT is probing all aspects to unearth the nexus, claim police sources.

There is no hepatitis-E testing facility with the IPH Department, Shimla Municipal Corporation and Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital and the State Pollution and Control Board, the water quality control regulator of plants.

“The jaundice outbreak this year is the fourth one in Shimla since 2007. It is a systemic failure and exposed political nexus among contractors and the IPH Department and other water quality control regulator,” said a virologist.

Six sewage treatment plants (STPs), four of which are located in the upstream of the Ashwani Khud, are being run on the conventional filtration method, said documents.

SMC and IPH Department labs only test water samples for the presence of coli-form and chlorine residue, while the State Pollution Control Board lab tests BOD, COD, faecal coli-form and pH to monitor the effluents level in plants.

There is no lab to test the presence of virus of size 0.01 and 0.1 both in water treatment plants and the STPs, said sources.

The sewage load in six plants - five with Doegar. The contractor has to maintain and operate the STPs by placing chemists and staff, saidsources.

This speaks volumes that the sewage connectivity, mainly in the peripheries of the city, is negligible and the Urban Development and Town and Country Planning did little to improve sewerage connectivity on the suburbs. The sewage finds its way into the nullahs that feed the Ashwani Khud.

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