Friday, May 1, 2009

Kerala- where wells are used for human waste

When I started my water mission in India, that of providing safe water to all of India by 2020, I had a belief that I would never need to go to Kerala to provide clean drinking water. My lovely state Kerala conjured up images of plentiful clean and sparkling fresh water....I always associated Kerala with lots of greenery and fresh water...So, why would I ever need to go to clean water that was already clean and safe?
I got the first jolt in late 2006, when I went to Delhi to attend a government conference. The water secretary of all states were there and the conference was chaired by Shri Raghuvansh Prasad, the then water minister. Shanta Shiela Nair, the secretary for Department of Drinking water and supply was also present.
During this conference, I learnt that Kerala has one of the most contaminated waters in the country. And the reason was an eye opener, on how good policies if not planned and thought of properly, can have disastrous effects. It seems, the government implemented Total Sanitation Project in Kerala whereby they installed latarines in each house..However, the septic tanks were not sealed properly and the fecal water leached into the wells and acquifers..most of Kerala acquifers and groundwater became contaminated with eColi, a pathogen..what a tragedy..

Well intentioned or hair brained??? I visited Kerala last week and met Shaukat Aryadan who is Panchayat President of Nilambur, a town about 40 kms from Calicut. Shaukat among his other multi talents, is a film producer and a very energetic and committed social worker. His enthusiasm for implementing new and socially beneficial projects is phenomenal. When I asked him about the total sanitation project and the result in Kerala, I got another matter of fact answer to my long pending query. The Panchayat had just Rs. 1500 to erect a laterine and tank...That was the total sum allocated by the government. How could any panchayat erect a toilet, tank and all with Rs.1,500? Another incidence of the government not thinking through its developmental projects. A similar populist policy being providing free power to farmers resulting in unlimited pumping of water for irrigation and the resulting depletion of our ground-water across the country.

Well, during my discussions with Shaukat, I came across the most bizarre incident..and this one beats all....a certain well in Nilambur, which was used for drinking water in the past, had been converted into a septic tank..YES..A SEPTIC TANK FOR HUMAN WASTE.....God save my state...and its clean water...

For Malayalees, attached is a report by Malayala Manorama on the quality of water in Kerala...Did anyone know there was fluoride in Kerala water...or that more than 90% tap water in Kerala is contaminated...welcome to the hard facts....

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