City Bureau

A joint drive undertaken by Metrowater and Corporation is intensified in northern parts of city

V. K. Subburaj, State Health Secretary: “The Integrated Diseases Surveillance Programme that we have set in place will be of immense help in preventing outbreak of epidemics. We are in the process of strengthening all State laboratories, train officials in the right methods of data collection and interpretation.

Once this becomes a regular feature of the public health system, it will be extremely easy to get prepared for and prevent an epidemic.”

Shivdas Meena, Managing Director, Chennai Metrowater: “We have intensified the surveillance of water quality supplied across the city since July 1 as a precautionary measure. The Quality Assurance Wing has doubled the testing of water samples to 200 for residual chlorine and about 60 samples for detailed biological test. The flushing operation of pipeline is an ongoing process and will continue whenever complaints are received.

The Corporation and Metrowater personnel tour the city with residual chlorination kits to check the chlorine level. .”

S. Jayachandran, President, North Chennai Indian Medical Association: “The waterborne diseases include diarrhoea, dysentery, jaundice, leptospirosis and typhoid. The cure for the disease is mainly rest with medication if the vomiting and pain are acute and if there is loss of consciousness.

Congested living conditions in a poor socio-economic background, lesser literacy and lack of awareness are the main reasons for the increase of water-borne diseases in North Chennai.”

CHENNAI: The recent rain may have brought cheer to city residents, but an offshoot of this is the spread of water-borne diseases. The outbreak of rain-related epidemics in the city, especially in north Chennai, has raised concern about sanitation and the quality of water supplied.

A joint drive, undertaken by Metrowater and the Corporation against water-borne diseases, has been intensified in the northern parts of the city. However, incidence of acute diarrhoeal disorder (ADD) has been sporadic in other parts too.

A survey on the quality of water supplied in the city and suburban areas revealed that certain pockets still received discoloured water. Though people in several areas noted the water quality had improved in the past few days, they were unsure of measures adopted for monsoon preparedness.

Residents in Choolaimedu, Washermenpet, Ayanavaram, Adyar and Velachery complained of receiving murky water. Those in Park Town, Choolai, Kotturpuram, K. K. Nagar and Jawahar Nagar said the water quality had improved since a few days ago.

K.S. Ramakrishnan of Chinmaya Nagar in Koyambedu said the water supplied to the area was turbid. “Of late, I notice when the water is boiled, it froths,” he said. Residents of Kumarappa Street, Nungambakkam, suspected their water supply had been contaminated with sewage in the last four months.

A Metrowater official reasoned that the dirt accumulated in the pipeline might be mixing with the water when pumped during non-supply hours. Old pipes in tail-end areas may also cause the problem.

Following the reported cases of the ADD, supply to about 50 streets in north Chennai has been suspended so far for flushing to arrest the spread of disease.

The chlorine level in some areas identified beyond the required amount of 0.2 parts per million was rectified. These areas would be supplied with tanker loads of water till the pipeline was thoroughly checked and flushed.

Once the project of improving the pipeline network in five distribution zones, including Anna Poonga (Royapuram) and Southern Headworks (Nungambakkam) was completed, the water quality would be enhanced, he said.

Sanitation is another problem plaguing the city residents. Raju of Saidapet said, “For seven months water from the nearby fish market used to stagnate near our place.

After repeated complaints, the Corporation officials have made some efforts to clean up.”

P. K. Rajiv, a consulting paediatrician in Velachery, treated about100 children in June-end and the first week of July for diarrhoea. “In the last fortnight, 90 per cent of the children suffered from diarrhoea. Now the incidence has come down to 10 per cent [of his total patients].” Dr. Rajiv noted sanitation and public health were affected by the waste and polluted water let loose in residential areas.

For the Communicable Diseases Hospital (CDH), work to treat the ADD began early this year. Normally, the city faces such an outbreak only in September or October. The number of fresh cases has come down in the last two weeks at the CDH but most wards are still occupied. Patients were frequently shifted to different wards as there were more people who needed treatment in the last week, said a patient’s relative at the hospital.

Corporation Health Officer P. Kuganatham said, “Incidence of the ADD has gone down to about 15 to 20 cases each day. We advise the public not to drink water from sachets.”

As an effort to combat the outbreak of the ADD, the Corporation conducted raids on hotels that serve unhygienic food, an anti-housefly campaign and an awareness drive to urge the public to drink only boiled water.

An eatery in Korukkupet was sealed after health inspectors found that meals were prepared in unsanitary conditions. A few shops in Koyambedu were closed down as they failed to safely dispose of rotting organic material. However, the limited number of food inspectors makes it difficult for the Corporation to check all the eateries and restaurants .

Those residing in the city’s fringes face more problems. In several suburbs, the supply is erratic and discoloured . Though Ambattur and Avadi officials say that quantity has been stepped up, the quality remains poor. However, no cases of water-borne diseases were registered in the area.

The Maduravoyal, Valasaravakkam and Thiruverkadu belt share the same fate. Instances of drinking water contamination have been on the rise in the southern suburbs.

Doctors at the Tambaram Taluk Government Hospital said that over the past week, more than a dozen patients from areas such as Kunrathur, Pallavaram and Hasthinapuram were admitted for the ADD everyday.

The authorities in the Directorate of Health Services in Kancheepuram district said that when informed about a spurt in the ADD, they collaborated with local bodies to identify the source of contamination and took remedial steps.

“Not alarming”

They were quick to point out that despite the sudden inflow of patients, the number was not alarming.

B.W.C. Sathiyasekaran, head, Community Medicine, Sri Ramachandra University, said people should be made aware of the need for better water quality.

The fly season that begins as mangoes flood the market increases possibilities of spread of diseases.

Doctors suggest that water be boiled until it is reduced to three-fourths of the original quantity. The food that is consumed in hotels must be hot and fruit juices avoided as a precautionary measure.

(With inputs from K.Lakshmi, R.Sujatha, Kannal Achuthan, Swahilya, J.Malarvizhi and K.Manikandan)