A curse for Chhatrapur villagers
Nearly 6,000 residents of Badaputi, P Laxmipur and Baginipetta villages under Chhatrapur block in Ganjam district, consider themselves cursed. Kidney ailments have claimed 70 lives in the three villages in the last five years and 200 others are suffering from renal disorders.
BERHAMPUR: Nearly 6,000 residents of Badaputi, P Laxmipur and Baginipetta villages under Chhatrapur block in Ganjam district, consider themselves cursed. Kidney ailments have claimed 70 lives in the three villages in the last five years and 200 others are suffering from renal disorders. The villagers blame it on groundwater contamination due to dumping of toxic by-products of monazite dumped by Orissa Sands Complex (OSCOM), a unit of Indian Rare Earths Ltd under Atomic Energy Department, in its periphery.
As the villages are located within 2 km radius from OSCOM, the effect has been telling on the residents whose mainstay is seasonal work and collection of forest produce. The deceased mostly belonged to the working section of the society and most of them were the sole bread winners. The deaths have shaken the backbone of the villages. This was revealed by a factfinding team which had surveyed the three villages in January this year and compiled the findings in a book which was later translated into Odia. During the book release on Saturday, the team members Dr Kalyani Menon Sen of Delhi, Dr Nisha Biswas of Kolkata and Basudev Mahapatra, Ranjana Padhi of Bhubaneswar, said OSCOM came into existence in 1980 and since then kidney ailment started.
Quoting the study report by the District Health Department of 2015, the team stated that the report speculated that likely causes could be contamination of water with heavy metals or pesticides or inhalation of pollutants expelled into the air from the OSCOM facility. In the absence of adequate treatment facilities at MKCG Medical College and Hospital, patients visit private clinics. As an average treatment cost ranges between `5 lakh and `7 lakh over two years, the families sell or mortgage their small patches of lands, meagre assets or take loans from private sources at an interest 2 to 3 per cent per month. The researchers recommended evacuation and resettlement of affected villages pending investigation and re-mediation of the problem.
The team called for immediate investigation by an expert team, free treatment to kidney patients and provision of safe drinking water to every household. However, the district administration and OSCOM officials refuted the charges. The OSCOM officials said water samples collected from the vicinity and tested at the Regional Pollution Control Board in 2015, was declared fit for human consumption. Similarly, the district health office claimed that the villages were under continued surveillance.