The Telegraph
Monday , July 17 , 2017

Assam alert against disease, poachers

- Drinking water crisis looms large


Dhemaji, July 16: A scarcity of drinking water faced by the flood-affected people taking shelter in makeshift camps on embankments and the roadside has posed a major health hazard in Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Majuli districts of Assam.

The unprecedented intensity of the floods this time has left most of the water sources contaminated. This, according to sources, has compelled many of the affected to survive on whatever they are coming across.

Numal Narah of Bahirselek under Jonai subdivision of Dhemaji district said: "We are collecting water from distant safer places and consuming it after boiling it."

Unlike him, for many of the affected there is hardly any source left safe enough, not many are left with the luxury of boiling or purifying water before drinking.

In Dhemaji district, 496 villages were flooded, with nearly 1,76,566 affected persons and 96 affected villages.

Sources said most of the affected people are compelled to drink unsafe water, adding that though hand pumps were installed in different places, those were not enough to cater to the population.

Dhemaji deputy commissioner R.A. Korati said: "We are providing hand pumps and water pouches to the affected. Halazon (chlorine) tablets and chemical packets are also being distributed through the medical teams to decontaminate the water before consumption."

In Majuli district, where 58 villages were submerged, affecting 48,381 persons, four camps were set up and 1,333 inmates are taking shelter there.

But because of a change in weather and the water receding from some areas, some people returned home.

Many affected people are still taking shelter in makeshift camps.

Majuli deputy commissioner Pallav Gopal Jha said the administration was well aware of the hazard. "As a preventive measure, we have installed more than 40 hand pumps. We are also giving out packaged water. Relief and rescue teams are also distributing halogen tablets."

However, Harish Pait, a resident of Selek, said packaged drinking water and hand pumps are not enough to cater to their requirements.

"We are compelled to use the water without knowing it is germ free or not," he added.

Altogether 1,96,580 people of nearly 256 villages in Lakhimpur district, where both sides of the dyke were breached, are the worst sufferers as they are compelled to drink contaminated water.

Bhaskar Das, a resident of Bogalijan taking shelter in a makeshift camp on the bypass road of Lakhimpur, said that some voluntary organisation were supplying drinking water.

"The government has installed hand pumps but the water from the pumps is contaminated. However, we are compelled to use it," he said.

Lakhimpur deputy commissioner Barun Bhuyan said, "We are working on all fronts to control the breakout of any waterborne diseases."

The flood situation in south Assam's Barak Valley, especially in Karimganj district, was grim with all the rivers rising above their danger levels in the past 24 hours.

Karimganj additional deputy commissioner Nabarun Bhattacharjee said this evening the public health engineering department has distributed around 41,000 packets of water purifying chemicals in the district.

District agriculture officer Ashishtaru Paul said around 32,000 farmers of around 850 villages have been affected in Karimganj district this year. Around 6,450 hectares of agricultural land and 2,240 hectares of cultivable land have been damaged.

Additional reporting by Swapnaneel Bhattacharjee in Silchar

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