Sewage on tap turns Diwali dark for Mumbai society

Over 150 from colony of 2,000 families are being treated for gastro diseases; residents allege drinking water contaminated by drainage line

A Malad housing society has been shrouded in gloom since yesterday, with the tragic death of a two-year-old after he drank contaminated water, also suspected to have laid another 150 residents low with gastroenteritis.

Little Vedanta’s lifeless body in the arms of a family member. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Little Vedanta’s lifeless body in the arms of a family member. Pics/Nimesh Dave

What has incensed everyone is the fact that the boy’s death could have been prevented, as they had complained about the fetid and murky water two weeks ago. However, instead of doing something about it, the BMC and the builder simply passed the buck onto each other.

A resident of Omkar Housing Society holds up a sample of the water they have been receiving
A resident of Omkar Housing Society holds up a sample of the water they have been receiving

The Kurar police will now investigate the matter, and an FIR has been registered against the builder and the concerned BMC officials.

Contaminated
On October 28, exactly two weeks before little Vedanta Jhetva’s death, residents of Omkar Housing Society noticed they were getting foul-smelling, filthy drinking water. They immediately informed the BMC and the builder about the problem.

Two-year-old Vedanta was fine until early Wednesday morning, when he suddenly fell very ill, said his father
Two-year-old Vedanta was fine until early Wednesday morning, when he suddenly fell very ill, said his father

After repeatedly following up, officials from the BMC and the builder’s office conducted an inspection. It was discovered that a rubber joint in the water pipeline had worn out and, as a result, wastewater from a neighbouring building was mixing with the drinking water of this society.

Doctors from Sai Krupa Hospital attend to a young patient from the society. Doctors said children were particularly at risk of dehydration, which is why several of them had to be admitted
Doctors from Sai Krupa Hospital attend to a young patient from the society. Doctors said children were particularly at risk of dehydration, which is why several of them had to be admitted

“We repeatedly informed the builder’s office and the BMC authorities about the issue. Representatives of both came and saw that drainage water was mixing with our drinking water, but all they did was blame each other for the problem.

Some of the society residents have been drinking bottled water, but many can’t afford to buy water for daily use
Some of the society residents have been drinking bottled water, but many can’t afford to buy water for daily use

The water looked muddy and was stinking, but they just told us to boil it before drinking,” said Shailesh Ghoghar, a resident of C wing of the society, whose 9-month-old nephew also had to be rushed to hospital a week ago after he started suffering from nausea and dysentery. Since then, the Ghoghar family began to buy bottled water.

According to other residents, the builder had also put a notice in the society premises warning people to not drink the water. However, most of the 2,000 families living in the nine buildings in the SRA housing project hail from low-income families and could not afford to buy bottled water for daily use.

Tragedy
The Jhetvas were one such family, who had no option but to boil the dirty water and drink it. Early last morning, however, little Vedanta fell severely ill.

“He was fine the previous night; we had played together till 1 am. He fell ill after drinking the water. He started vomiting and was also suffering from loose motions. He woke us up around 7 am but was so weak, he could not even speak.

We panicked and immediately took him to our family doctor, who said that his condition was serious and needed to be treated at a specialised hospital,” recalled the toddler’s father, Harish Jhetva.

They then took the boy to three hospitals, of which none were equipped to handle such a serious case. By the time the family reached Shatabdi Hospital one and a half hours later, the two-year-old was declared dead on arrival.

“The boy had high blood pressure and was suffering from loose motion, and because his condition was serious, we asked the family to take him to a better equipped hospital,” said Dr Shazia Khan, assistant medical officer at Mahavir Hospital, which was the first hospital the family visited.

Those were, in fact, the same symptoms that the other 150 residents had complained of — vomiting, loose motion and dehydration. 25 had to be admitted for emergency medical care. According to doctors, this pointed to a water-borne disease.

While it is yet to be determined whether it was the contaminated drinking water in the society that caused everyone to fall sick, doctors said it was likely.

BMC vs Builder
Ajit Raorane, the local BMC councillor said they had resolved the issue within three days of finding out about the water contamination, but the issue escalated as the residents continued to drink the same contaminated water.

“I got the complaint on November 7 and I called the builder and the BMC water department the next day. The issue was resolved on November 9. However, people who had stored the water, continued to use it,” he said. mid-day could not reach the in-charge of BMC’s P-North ward, Dr Sangeeta Hasnale.

On the other hand, Omkar Developers claims it had informed the BMC about the issue on October 28, but the civic body was slow to take action. “We had written to BMC, informing them about the condition. The problem was happening outside the society.

After requesting the residents to not use the water, we also provided water tankers, but the problem happened due to delay in action,” said Nilesh More from Omkar Developers, who is also the manager of the housing project.

FIR filed
Another resident, Brijesh Rajbhar whose 5-year-old son also had the same problem, filed a complaint at the Kurar police station yesterday. In his statement to the police, Brijesh said doctors said his son had fallen ill due to contaminated water. He alleged that this is also what killed little Vedanta.

Based on his statement, the police registered an FIR against Omkar Developers, its manager Robin Singh, and the concerned BMC officials, under Sections 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 277 (fouling water of public spring or reservoir) and 304A (causing death by negligence) of the IPC.

Doctor speak

Dr Rajesh Murudkar
Paediatrician, Kairav Nursing home
Out of the nine patients I am treating, seven are children. All of them are definitely suffering from water-borne diseases. I cannot say that it is due to the contaminated water from the housing society, but since the symptoms are same for everybody, there is a strong possibility that it could be the cause

Dr Arvind Dhar 
Paediatrician, Sai Krupa Hospital
I have seen at least 80 patients since morning, and 13 had to be admitted. All the patients showed the symptoms of gastroenteritis. Dehydration caused more issues for the paediatric patients, due to which we admitted 8 of them. Fortunately, they all came to the hospital at the right time, otherwise it could’ve been fatal

Shiv Mohan
Administrator, Sanjeevani Hospital 
All patients had gastroenteritis. It being a festive season, there is a chance that people might’ve eaten or drank something outside. One patient is in the ICU, as he was suffering from acute dehydration, but his condition is under control now. The doctors might discharge him in a day or two

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1 Comments

  • ravi14-Nov-2015

    Is this what will make India a developing nation? Children dying of dirty water - this happens in the poorest of poor nations. BMC should be punished

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