Cancer fear in Bhagalpur water

Health risk: (From top) The intake wells at Barari waterworks in Bhagalpur; the findings of the Delhi-based laboratory on the drinking water supplied in Bhagalpur and the remedial measures suggested. Pictures by Gautam Sarkar

Bhagalpur: A recent laboratory report from New Delhi-based NASIND Engineering Services has unearthed the risk contaminated drinking water supplied by the Bhagalpur Municipal Corporation (BMC) poses to residents.

In a letter to Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (BUIDCO), mayor Seema Sha sought implementation of immediate measures to avoid supply of contaminated water through its century-old system. She also urged for immediate restoration of drinking water supply through tankers.

NASIND Engineering Services collected samples of the drinking water supplied by Barari waterworks around three weeks ago and after lab testing at its National Accreditation Board for Testing & Calibration (NABL) laboratory, confirmed, in its report, presence of several poisonous compounds in the drinking water, which could expose those consume it regularly to diseases like cancer.

Bhagalpur divisional commissioner Rajesh Kumar has asked the Bhagalpur district magistrate to conduct a probe.

Some BMC ward councillors, along with deputy mayor Rajesh Verma, called on the urban development minister in Patna and urged him to take appropriate measures to save the lives of Bhagalpur residents.

The minister will hold a meeting on the issue in Patna on January 16 with BUIDCO officials and the private agency, Pan India, which is assigned to look after supply of drinking water in Bhagalpur.

Sources from Pan India, which charges BMC Rs 50 lakh monthly to supply drinking water, however, attributed the change in the course of the river Ganga for the entire episode.

The sources added that as per the agreement with BUIDCO, Pan India has to maintain the water supply system, which is being done through the century-old Barari water treatment plant.

Water is fetched from the Ganga and treated there before being supplied to households through the pipeline networking.

"We only have to maintain water supply through Barari waterworks but the problem started 3-4 years ago when the Ganga's main course shifted away from the intake well (which fetches water from the river for supply after treatment). The two intake wells now fetch water from the narrow stream of the river known as Jamunia Dhar. Since the city has no sewage plant, all drain and waste outlets open directly into the Jamunia Dhar. Hence, the intake wells are compelled to draw contaminated water from it," the source explained.

The main stream of the Ganga shifted around 4km to the east of the intake wells.

Bhagalpur Congress MLA Ajit Sharma had raised the issue of supply of contaminated drinking water in 2016.

Local doctors also admitted that consumption of poisonous water could have adverse impact on residents.

"Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial College and Hospital has been receiving scores of patients with skin-related infections and other gastroenteritis problems. Most such patients have disclosed that they consume drinking water supplied by BMC. Regular consumption of the water could lead to fatal diseases like cancer," said Dr Hemshanker Sharma.

In 2016, then town commissioner Avinash Kumar Singh had also given an ultimatum to Pan India for supplying contaminated drinking water to residents.

Present town commissioner S.B. Meena was not available for comment. But sources in his office said BMC would take appropriate steps soon to ensure supply of pure drinking water.


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