Other States

Polluted rivers cause havoc in western U.P. villages

Neha, one of the affected children of Baghpat’s Gangnolli village in western Uttar Pradesh.- Photo: Munish Kumar

Neha, one of the affected children of Baghpat’s Gangnolli village in western Uttar Pradesh.- Photo: Munish Kumar  

Contaminated waters of the Krishna river in Baghpat district of western Uttar Pradesh, barely 55 km from the nation's capital, may be responsible for cancer, bone deformity and paralysis among residents of several villages along its banks.

Independent studies have shown that the extremely high content of heavy metals and compounds like mercury, lead, zinc, phosphate, sulphide, cadmium, iron, nickel and manganese have been found in the river water which has become so poisonous that it does not have any aquatic life.

Residents of several villages in Baghpat are struggling with cancer which has led to several deaths. In Gangnoli village alone 112 people have died of cancer in the last two years and 47 are currently battling this disease. Some of them have been bedridden for three to five years.

The situation came to light when in May this year, Dr. Chandraveer Singh, a retired senior scientist at Haryana Pollution Control Board and resident of Daha village, sent some samples of the Krishna river for testing to SIMA Labs, an entity recognized by Ministry of Environment and Forests, and UP Pollution Control Board. The results were disturbing.

The total suspended solids in the river water was found to be 7500 mg per litre as against the permissible 200 mg. The presence of sulfide was 285 mg per litre as against the permissible 2 mg and iron was 38 mg as against 3 mg. Extremely high levels of mercury and lead were also found.

“Industrial units in western UP, mainly sugar and paper mills and slaughterhouses release effluents into the river,” said Dr. Singh, who travelled to 80 villages along the banks of the Krishna, Kali and Hindon in Saharanpur, Baghpat, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Meerut districts, and found incidence of similar health problems, though in varying degrees. The river water has seeped in and contaminated the ground water. The State Pollution Control Board and the Chief Medical Officer are yet to act on the issue.

“Over a hundred villagers have died in this village due to cancer. The same number of people have died in the nearby villages in the last two years. Several thousands in the villages in the vicinity are suffering from various degrees of bone deformities,” says the village pradhan of Gangnoli, Dharmender Rathi, showing a list of villagers who died due to cancer.

“Every month we discover a new patient with grave symptoms,” said Gajay Singh while flashing medical prescriptions of the four family members he lost to cancer in last two years.

“Our next generation is facing an uncertain future with children being born with deformities or paralysis,” said Sundar Singh pointing towards 14-year-old Vikas who is bedridden since birth.

Eight-year-old Neha, can stand but not walk. Dharamveer (48) is bedridden for the last three years. There are very few houses which don’t have a child without any deformity.

According to Dr. Sunil Kumar Gupta, senior consultant, medical oncologist, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre, Delhi, “All heavy metals do not affect immediately but their prolonged consumption has serious repercussions on the human body and cancer is very much one of them. These carcinogens, in the long run, damage bone marrow, deplete platelets, impair kidneys and even affect nervous system especially in children.”

When The Hindu contacted Dr. Sukhbir Singh, Joint Director, Department of Health, Meerut Division, he admitted to having heard of a “cancer epidemic” in Baghpat and said he had asked for a “thorough report" from the Chief Medical Officer of Baghpat.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 3:00:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/polluted-rivers-cause-havoc-in-western-up-villages/article6559777.ece

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