VILLUPURAM: An otherwise sleepy village, Kappiyampuliyur near Vikravandi is making news for all the wrong reasons. Consider this: despite a population of just 1,500, the village witnessed about 25 deaths due to kidney failure in the last five years and another 50 are undergoing dialysis for various kidney ailments.
While the officials blame it on high consumption of alcohol and tobacco among villagers, the locals have another story to tell. They ask how could both men and women fall prey to the disease, as no woman in their village consume liquor or tobacco.
They point their finger of suspicion at urinary excretion from a nearby private educational institution, claiming it was being carelessly discharged, which polluted groundwater and caused kidney ailments.
According to a farm labourer from the village who didn’t want to be named, he has been undergoing dialysis at a private medical college three times a week after both his kidneys failed.
“I was healthy and doing farm works well. For the two acres of farmland, I needed just three workers for planting paddy and harvesting the crop. But in the last one year, I lost all my strength and have to undergo dialysis once in two days. I am nothing but a big burden to my wife and children,” the 55-year-old exclaimed as he broke down.
Another villager, who also didn’t want to be named, said he lost his wife to kidney failure last year. “Only six months before her demise, we came to know that both her kidneys had failed. Doctors at a private hospital in Chennai told us that the water we consumed contained high levels of salt and calcium, which could be the reason for kidney failure.”
He said he had to take his wife to a private hospital for dialysis as the government hospital staff neglected them. “I had been taking her to a private hospital in Villupuram for five months but in vain,” he added.
Many of the ailing villagers Express spoke to complained about the lax government hospital staff. They rued that they were forced to depend on the expensive private hospitals even though they were entitled to eight free dialysis per month from government hospitals under medical insurance schemes. “Private hospitals charge an average of Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per month for dialysis. We spend even our last penny for the treatment of our loved ones,” another villager said.
The locals alleged that their problems started when a private education institution, owned by the family members of former DMK minister K Ponmudi, was established in the village a decade ago. According to the villagers, the institution has been discharging the urinary waste of the entire students, more than 1,500, towards the residential areas and this contaminated the ground water. They further alleged that despite warnings from the Revenue officials, the institution failed to construct a proper waste management system. When contacted, Ponmudi refuted the allegations and claimed that the water discharged from the institution was just rain water.
Villagers claimed that the officials had collected water samples from the village three months back for lab test but haven’t shared the results with them. Speaking to Express, Collector L Subramanian refuted the claims of villagers but assured to collect water samples from the village for testing again. He also added that if urine waste from the institution was found to be flowing towards residential areas, appropriate action would be taken to stop it.