Visakhapatnam

Mondipalem, another Uddanam in the making?

In dire straits: Villagers of Mondipalem village at the quarry and stone crushing unit site.

In dire straits: Villagers of Mondipalem village at the quarry and stone crushing unit site.  

About 40 men of the village have died due to CKD

After eight hours of back-breaking work in adverse conditions at a stone quarry, the only avocation 60-year-old Y. Eswaramma has is to return home, sit in a corner of her one-room house and stare at the photographs of her son and husband that hang on the wall. Occasionally, she gets up to light an incense stick near the photos.

She lost her husband, Y. Apparao, about three years ago, and around two years ago lost her only son, who was in his early 20s. Both of them died due chronic kidney disease (CKD).

“I never thought that I have to work as a daily wager at this age. I have no other option as both the bread winners of my house are gone. I had to take up work at the quarry, where both my husband and son were working,” lamented Eswaramma.

This is not just the story of Eswaramma alone, but almost every household in Mondipalem village in Anakapalle mandal of Visakhapatnam district, has a similar tale to tell.

The village comprising about 90 households has lost about 40 earning males in the last 16 to 20 years. And all of them died of CKD that appears to have hit them like a pandemic.

Early symptoms

The series of deaths started about 18 years ago and the age profile of the deceased varies from early 20s to mid 40s. “There is at least one death or one person suffering from CKD in every family,” said Y. Muslinaidu, a resident, who is now on dialysis.

It starts with mild fever that is treated by the local quacks, and within months turns into full blown CKD and barely after two or three dialysis sessions the patient dies, he added.

According to a few surviving old timers, the village is about 200 years old, and since the last 40 years almost all the earning males have been working as daily wage labourers in the stone quarries that abut the village or in the neighbouring stone crushing units.

‘Surviving beyond 60 rare’

“A person surviving beyond the age of 60 years is a rarity in our village,” said T. Satyavati, who lost her husband, T. Nageswara Rao, a few years ago due to the same reason. “But I am now worried about the health of my two sons who work in a quarry,” she said.

“Most of us have small agricultural land, but that is not sufficient for a living and the men have to work in quarries for sustenance, as that is the economy model we have, and we are averse to the idea of shifting from our ancestral village,” she said.

There are about seven major stone quarries in the vicinity and at least three crushing units surrounding the village. A fourth one is coming up barely 500 metres from the last house in the village.

“As if CKD was not sufficient for our woes, now we have a crushing unit coming up in the vicinity. Apart from kidney problem, many of us are also suffering from lung and respiratory diseases. We have represented this to the District Collector and are awaiting response,” Mr. Muslinaidu said.

Unique problem

The problem in Mondipalem is unique. This is the only village among others located close to the stone quarries facing this problem.

According to the medical fraternity, CKD normally results from contamination of ground water. But in this case, the panchayat has been supplying water through pipeline since last 10 years and after a sustained awareness campaign, most of the households have migrated to packaged water.

Then from where is this problem generating? “We have conducted at least three health camps in the recent past and the serum creatinine and blood urea levels were found to be alarming in a number of people. At least 19 persons are now on dialysis. But we are unable to diagnose the root cause,” said Ramesh Naidu, the doctor at the nearest Primary Health Centre.

“They work in adverse condition in the quarries and crushing units, where apart from pollution the average temperature is 45-plus Celsius. Moreover, it may be that the water consumption is low and this appears to be a possible reason,” he said.

According to Tirupati Rao, DMHO, Mondipalem case needs to be probed. “Even Uddanam in Srikakulam district, where hundreds have died due to CKD, ICMR is investigating the cause and that is why it is known as CKDU (chronic kidney disease unknown),” he said. “Even in Uddanam, the issue is prevalent in pockets,” he added.

The Mondipalem issue has come to our notice and the State Government is giving ₹10,000 per month to every person undergoing dialysis. But it needs a detailed scientific probe,” said renowned nephrologist and former Vice-Chancellor of NTR University of Health Sciences T. Ravi Raju.

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 1:47:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/mondipalem-another-uddanam-in-the-making/article30080771.ece

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