Even as Ganjam district reels under water scarcity in this summer, unhygienic use of water bodies for religious beliefs has worsened the situation.
From mid-March to April, several festivals are celebrated. Devotees from various villages visit different shrines in the district and make careless use of the water bodies leaving those highly polluted. Recently, the open air defecation by Danda Nacha troupes on the banks and periphery of ponds and tanks in the city left the water bodies highly polluted.
Medical experts feel a summer shower would carry faeces into the water bodies which can lead to rise in diseases caused by water contamination. Luckily, there has been no rain in the district till now.
Hundreds of Danda Nacha troupes had moved around villages and towns of the district. The Danduas, who are members of these troupes, leave their homes for 21 days to take up hard penance and austerity.
They live in the open during the period and perform ritualistic penance in ponds and water bodies. Due to ritualistic belief, the Danda Nacha troupe members use open space near water bodies as toilets.
There are Sulabh Sauchalaya toilets in the city and other urban areas in the district.
But the Danduas prefer to defecate on the banks of the tank instead of using the community toilets. When asked, they reiterate that using toilets would be sacrilege.
Assistant professor of Pathology department, MKCG Medical College, Dr Bodhisatwa Behera said only continuous harsh summer heat for a few weeks can allay the fear of water contamination from water bodies. Sun ray and heat have the capacity to kill most pathogenic bacteria and virus. If the faeces get washed into the water bodies by rain water, there is every chance of water borne diseases breaking out, he added.
The people of the economically backward section, who mostly depend on water bodies for their day to day chores, would be the worst affected. The water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, polio and typhoid as well as hepatitis spread easily in this situation.
With the people scared of objecting to the religious practices of Danda Nacha troupes, the water bodies need to be cleaned and awareness promoted among the villagers on hygienic practices, said Behera.