Bhopal, the city of lakes, has been certified as the second cleanest city in India two years in a row. But an independent study of more than 40 samples found more bacteria in Bhopal’s drinking water than commonly present in human urine.
City-based environmentalist Dr Subhash C Pandey conducted tests on water available at railway stations, government hospitals, government colleges, bus stations, municipal corporation tanks, ice factories, hand pumps and other public places a week before the announcement of Swachh Sarvekshan survey 2018 report.
As per Pandey’s findings, the level of coliform bacteria and total dissolved solids – comprising inorganic salts, mainly calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates that are dissolved in water – found in Bhopal’s drinking water is 2,400 times above the permissible limit.
The contents are not only similar to the bacteria found in urine, but can cause stomach-related diseases, waterborne diseases, blood pressure issues, headaches, and cancer. Moreover, it can also lead to skin-related diseases and hair fall.
The water samples were taken from Bhopal, Habibganj and Bairagarh railway stations, the Sultania Janana Hospital (the state’s biggest hospital for women), Hamidia Hospital, JP Hospital, Nadara Bus Stand, Hamidia Arts College, and the Motilal Vigyan Mahavidyalaya.
The drinking water samples were taken from corporation's water tanker and ice samples from Avtar Water supply Chunna Bhatti, Yadav water supply Chunna Bhatti, Bairagarh Bus Stand and other locations. A total of 42 samples were collected from different parts of the city.
Pandey, who headed the project, carried out the tests in his certified lab named 'Janta Ki Lab' in Bhopal.
“We found urinal bacteria and TDS in the drinking water of Bhopal railway station, Sultania Women Hospital, Hamidia Hospital, and Nadra Bus stand, and heavy metal iron in Motilal Vigyan Mahavidyalaya (MVM) College beyond permissible limit,” said Pandey.
As per the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) 2012, in drinking water, the coliform bacteria should be 0 MPN in 100 ml, less than 0.3 mg per litre heavy metal iron, and TDS should not be more than 500 mg per litre.
However, according to Pandey’s report, coliform bacteria in the samples ranged from 1,100 to 2,400 MPN, while heavy metal was 1.4 mg in water samples of MVM College and TDS between 495 mg to 772 mg per litre, which is alarming.
"Such contaminated water will lead to stomach-related diseases and waterborne diseases, like diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, jaundice, blood pressure, headache, and even cancer. Moreover, it also causes skin-related diseases and hair fall." - Dr Subhash C Pandey
Under the Swachh Sarvekshan survey 2018, carried out by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Bhopal has been awarded with the title of India's second cleanest city. The survey was held from 4 January 2018 to 10 March 2018 by 4,203 urban local bodies.
Questioning the functioning of the Municipal Corporation and Pollution Control Board, Pandey said:
"The Municipal Corporation, which is busy blowing its own trumpet for bagging the title of second cleanest city, should seriously look into this matter. How can they claim Bhopal is clean by supplying contaminated water, which leads to disastrous diseases?"Pandey Raises Concerns Over Govt Apathy
Pandey believes there two major reasons for such high level of contamination in Bhopal’s water. First, a lack of proper maintenance of water tanks, water pipelines and sewage pipelines. Water pipelines and sewage pipelines, which are wired closely, sometimes burst and sewage water gets mixed with drinking water and nobody fixes it, said Pandey.
Secondly, there are two or three major lakes in the city, and sewage pipelines open up in most of them. According to Pandey, this contaminates the ground water, therefore water in hand pumps, tube wells and bore wells also gets contaminated.
Pandey says the government has not conducted a thorough audit of water resources for years. “No survey has been carried out, neither by the corporation nor by the pollution control board, in last couple of years. As far as tube wells, water pumps and water tankers are concerned, nobody cleans then once they’re put in use. The corporation has turned a deaf ear despite several complaints,” said Pandey.
“I have decided to send my findings and reports to the department concerned, so that punitive actions can take place in time and save the people,” he added.
Pandey said he also planned to appeal in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) through a PIL on the basis of his report.
Will Test Only if Anyone Complaints: Pollution Control Board
When contacted, regional officer of the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board, PS Bundela, said, “The board has not received any compliant regarding contamination of water by the resident. We can only initiate a probe or test water if anyone reports the matter.”
When asked, why no survey has been carried out and when the last survey took place, Bundela said, “There is no fixed schedule to carry out surveys and I don’t remember when the last testing of water samples was conducted.”
Meanwhile, Divisional Railway Manager, West Central Railway, Shobhan Choudhury, immediately initiated a probe and also sought a report from Pandey.
However, Mayor Alok Sharma sounded clueless about the issue, “I’m not aware of that fact and I don’t know much about it. Neither have I received any complaint from the resident nor by the corporation officials over impure water supply.”
(The writer is a Bhopal-based freelance journalist and can be reached @MallickKakvi. The Quint could not independently verify Dr SC Pandey’s findings)
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