The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cholera alert over shanties on water pipe

The civic water supply department has sounded the alert and CPM councillor Snehanshu Roy has warned municipal commissioner Debasish Som that a massive outbreak of cholera is imminent in the Tangra, Christopher Road, Pottery Road and Topsia belt. The zone has been receiving water contaminated by the shanties that have mushroomed along the the water mains on the northern flank of Bridge No. 4.

The shanty-dwellers have converted the 24-inch-diameter water mains into their personal source of water by removing the sealants from the pipe joints. “They are washing, bathing and defecating right on the pipeline, posing a threat to the health and hygiene of about five lakh men, women and children in the Tangra-Topsia belt,” pointed out Roy.

Diarrhoea is a common ailment in the area and a dozen people have had to be removed to Infectious Diseases (ID) Hospital over the past 24 hours.

The burgeoning of shanties along Bridge No. 4, in Park Circus, is a recent phenomenon, following the eviction drive on the Beleghata canal banks. “I have made it clear to the municipal commissioner that an eviction drive is imperative to ensure a supply of safe water to the Tangra-Topsia belt,” said mayor-in-council (water supply) member Sovan Chatterjee.

In the past, too, cholera had struck large-scale in the Tangra-Topsia areas. Residents complain that the civic authorities have always turned a blind eye to the contamination hazard. They also complain that they continue to be neglected because they are economically backward. “The civic body has left us to fend for ourselves. They are not bothered about us,” the residents alleged.

Councillor Roy said it was up to commissioner Som of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation now to set matters right.

Already, a diarrhoea outbreak over the weekend at Hastings, in Kidderpore, has the civic health department locking horns with the water supply department. About 100 residents suffered an attack and 45 of them had to be admitted to ID Hospital. According to officer on special duty (health) Atanu Mukherjee, 19 people were shifted to ID Hospital on Saturday and 26 on Sunday.

However, chief engineer (water supply) Dibyendu Roychaudhury asserted on Tuesday that the filtered water supplied to Hastings was free from contamination. He blamed the attack on food consumed by the residents.

Local CPM councillor Faiyaz Ahmed Khan, too, held that impure food may have set off the diarrhoeal attack. Officer on special duty Mukherjee chose to differ. “Gastro-enteritis is never caused by food,” he pointed out. “It is a water-borne ailment.”

Chief engineer Roychaudhury claimed that laboratory tests had found “nothing alarming” in the water samples collected from the area. The health department has set up a medical camp at Hastings and people are being advised to boil their water. However, in view of the outbreak, the water supply department has decided to replace the area’s old waterlines with new pipes.

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