Deaths by contaminated water expose Hyderabad’s poor infrastructure

May 6th, 2009 - 4:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, May 6 (IANS) The death of six people due to contaminated drinking water has exposed the poor civic infrastructure of this IT hub, forcing the Andhra Pradesh Human Rights Commission to intervene and seek a report from concerned authorities.
About 200 people fell ill Tuesday after consuming drinking water supplied through public taps in their area. Six, including three children, lost their lives before they could be rushed to hospital. Others, mostly children, are undergoing treatment in various hospitals.

The incident in a neighbourhood in the heart of the city has raised serious questions about the quality of water supplied to the nearly eight million people of the city and suburbs by the government-run Hyderabad Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB).

Acting on a complaint by two NGOs, the human rights commission late Tuesday directed the water board officials as well as the district medical and health officer to submit a report on the causes of the tragedy and the steps taken to provide succour to the victims.

Acting swiftly after public outcry, the state government suspended a local manager of the water board and ordered an inquiry by a senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) official. The official has been asked to submit a report in three days.

The government has promised to punish those found guilty of negligence. However, few are convinced.

“The inquiry by an IAS officer will serve no purpose because those heading the water board and other civic departments are also IAS officers,” said Purshottam Reddy, an environmentalist.

He wants the government to conduct the probe through an independent agency and ensure that those found guilty are punished.

Concerned citizens point out that the authorities woke up only after a tragedy and that they had not learnt any lessons from such incidents in the past.

Local residents allege that the board officials did not heed their complaints about the contaminated water supply in the last several days.

“Had they acted on our complaints, the lives could have been saved,” said Syed Jahangir, a resident of Bholakpur.

The board officials, however, blame the tanneries in Bholakpur and surrounding areas for the contamination. The pressure is now mounting on authorities to shift the tanneries.

The water board supplies a total of 290 mgd (million gallons per day) from four different sources to Hyderabad urban agglomeration. The city gets water on alternate days though the authorities recently launched daily water supply in a few localities.

Several localities in the state capital are vulnerable to water contamination as the water and drainage pipelines were laid decades ago during the rule of the Nizam of erstwhile Hyderabad state.

The underground pipelines run side by side and leakages often result in contamination. It is because of the inadequate infrastructure failing to meet the needs of burgeoning population that one finds overflowing drains in several localities, including those housing middle and upper middle classes.

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