Thursday, February 26, 2009




• Residents of Shivajinagar and Rajajinagar are constantly falling sick
•Bangalore Mirror gets water samples tested in laboratories
•Results show presence of bacteria far beyond permissible levels
•An epidemic threatens, but BWSSB is hardly bothered
Think of a situation where antibiotics fail to bring down a fever. Even medical specialists would be hard-pressed to figure out a second line of treatment in such cases. One can then easily imagine the predicament of residents of two city areas, whose house taps have indeed turned into harbingers of disease. The reason is a no-brainer: contaminated drinking water.
With the onset of summer, the number of people from Rajajinagar I Block and Shivajinagar making a beeline to local clinics and nursing homes with complaints of nausea or diarrhoea is bound to increase. Many are unaware that the problem lies a few feet under the ground and wonder why they fall sick frequently despite consuming home-cooked food.
Bangalore Mirror decided to get to the root of the problem by collecting water samples and sending them for laboratory tests. Our suspicions were confirmed: the samples had disease-causing bacteria like pseudomonas aeruginosa, klebsiella and E-coli that are resistant to antibiotics.
While pseudomanas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that has the ability to cause infections that are difficult to treat, the presence of Ecoli in water is an indication of sewage or animal waste contamination. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the permissible
level of coliforms (E-coli) in 100 ml of water should be zero and 10 respectively; but the water sample collected from Rajajinagar showed 65 coliforms per 100 ml and that of Shivajinagar was literally a microbial soup!
“These foreign bodies in the water are slowly but steadily affecting the health of those consuming it. In fact, both the water samples tested had fecal indicators and pathogens in alarming numbers,” said microbiologist Arun J M. He attributed the contamination to the seepage of sewage water into drinking water — a distinct possibility in the city as both pipelines run parallel and in close proximity to each other. The other reason could be defecation in the open (especially in slums), resulting in the contamination of ground water sources.
But clinical observations like these are outside the ken of most of the residents. Palaniraj, a resident of Rajajinagar I Block, a mainly middle-class locality, said, “We are not aware of the root cause of the problem. People here usually go to a doctor complaining of diarrhoea or nausea. We eat only clean, home-cooked food but yet fall sick.”
Like others in the area, Palaniraj’s drinking water comes from the Thippagondanahalli reservoir and gets filled in a tank near his house. The same water is supplied to Rajajinagar N Block, Mahalakshmi Layout and surrounding localities. Another resident and director of Janata Cooperative Bank, B K Satyanarayan, said he suspected a leakage in the water pipeline in a nearby slum. The tests showed that water samples from Rajajinagar contained all three microbes — pseudomonas aeruginosa, klebsiella and E-coli. When contacted, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) officials feigned ignorance and said, “The water has been found to be clean. Anyway, we will test it again and come to a final conclusion.”
The situation is worse in Shivajinagar, especially in the New Market Road area. More than 50 families live here and the water — brown in colour and with all kinds of particles floating in it — is so bad that it does not require any tests to prove it is contaminated. “We are forced to go to other areas to fetch water or buy it from suppliers,” said Mohsim, a fruit merchant. Fellow residents Muneer and Zareena said, “It has been three months since this water is flowing from our taps. BWSSB is yet to identify at which point sewage water is getting mixed with drinking water.”
On the problem in Shivajinagar, BWSSB chief engineer Venkataraju said, “Work on a nearby storm water drain is going on and we cannot identify the problem now. It will take some time and till then we will provide tanker water to the residents.”
But that’s small comfort to the residents. As several of them remarked, “There are children in our families; for how long do we keep taking them to hospitals?” NATURE’S TERRORISTS
The three kinds of microbes found in the water samples of Rajajinagar I Block and Shivajinagar are:
Pseudomonas aeruginosa: It can cause ailments like pneumonia and urinary tract infections. Pseudomonal infections are complicated and can be life-threatening. E-coli:This germ causes severe cramps and diarrhoea, and is a leading cause for bloody diarrhoea. It can also lead to kidney failure. Klebsiella: Infection with klebsiella organisms occurs in the lungs, where they cause destructive changes. Necrosis, inflammation and haemorrhage occur within lung tissue. It can also lead to serious respiratory problems.


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