It’s a choice that no one should have to make. But, the fact is that residents of Dolara village in Mokhada taluka have two options before them: either remain parched in the prevailing drought-like condition, or consume water that is unsuitable even for animals. Most of them have opted for the latter. A Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) laboratory has detected presence of nitrate in samples collected from a well that is replenished by tankers fetching water to the village located 140 kilometres from Thane that is afflicted by water scarcity. The test results establish that the water is unfit for human consumption and can result in a host of health problems.
MiD DAY in its article ‘Water may be unfit for human consumption’ on April 27, had raised serious concerns about the quality of water.Local authorities’ efforts to rush tankers to areas where there is severe scarcity are actually proving counterproductive, as the quality of water being brought by tankers is usually not always verified. In effect, a lot of it is contaminated and filthy, giving rise to a number of health problems like gastroenteritis on consumption. The primary rural health centre in the area sees a number of cases of digestive and intestinal problems regularly, and the reasons are obvious. Dolara has a total of 300 dwellings, occupied by a population of approximately 1,400 to 1,500. The only potable water sources here at the moment are the tankers that empty their contents in two wells — one inside the village and the other on the outskirts. MiD DAY was present at the village a few days ago and we witnessed that minutes after the tanker water was poured into a well, locals were jostling with each other for their share, without even waiting for the mud and other impurities to settle down.
Samples were collected from both wells and the same sent to the BMC laboratory at Dadar on April 26 for ‘complete water analysis’ testing. On May 2, the laboratory concluded its analyses and submitted the findings (copy with the newspaper), wherein it pointed out that one of the two samples collected was unfit for human consumption. A laboratory analyst, who did not wish to be named, said, “One of the two samples is unfit for human consumption because it contains brown and white particles and it has tested positive for nitrate. Drinking this water will lead to health problems related to the stomach, like diarrhoea and vomiting. Consumption of this water by a pregnant woman is also not advisable, as it will lead to serious health effects on the foetus. This water is also unfit for consumption by vulnerable sections of the population like small children and old people. As this water does not qualify the human parameters essential for safe consumption, it can also be termed unsafe for consumption by animals.”
“The said sample is of contaminated water. This water is absolutely unsafe for drinking. However, it can be used for household chores like bathing, washing and cleaning,” said a senior official attached to the laboratory. Speaking about the other sample, which tested negative for nitrate, the analyst said, “Sample 1 is suitable for human consumption and can be safely used for drinking without treating the water further by any purification methods.” “I know the water is not potable and is harmful. But I have no option but to drink it and even make my children drink it. Dirty water is better than no water at all,” said Vanita Sawle, a resident of Dolara. According to the primary health centre doctor in-charge Dr Rajesh Mhaske, on an average they get 70 to 80 people daily on OPD basis for complaints like stomach ache, loose motion and initial symptoms of gastro, all attributable to the contaminated water. When contacted Santosh Gawli, Dolara grampanachayat member, said, “Our body has become immune to such contaminated water. But, since the last few days, water tankers have stopped coming to the village, causing serious concerns again.”
“On Wednesday, the villagers protested outside the collector’s office and relented only after political leaders intervened and assured to do the needful by sending the tankers again. Locals are agitated. We have faced a lot of adversity and are prepared for any consequence if the administration fails to supply potable water,” Gawli warned. Vasai MLA and chief of Shramajivi Sanghatana, Vivek Pandit said, “It is a serious issue. The villagers are already facing a drought situation and the unfit water that they are consuming may lead to a waterborne epidemic soon. The local administration should refrain from emptying water into the wells directly.” Experts had earlier suggested providing tanks to the village to store water, so locals don’t have to depend on the squalid wells. But the proposal was rejected by the villagers who felt it would lead to more brawls amongst people while trying to get their share.