Wednesday, 27th August 2014

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Contamination threat looms large

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Proposed underground water reservoir at IDH

We see more cancer and diabetic patients, graying of hair in the young ones. All these are as a result of poisonous food we eat - food poisoned by pesticides, weedicides and chemical fertilizers and food poisoned by unauthorized preservatives.  The newest method proposed to distribute water will systematically poison the water supplied to the people living in Colombo and its suburbs.

A water tank was built at Gothatuwa, Kolonnawa to distribute water to the people in the surrounding areas like Kolonnawa, Rajagiriya and Angoda. This is an overhead water tank, built with funds from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Even though it is called  the Asian Development Bank, it has 19 non-regional members such as the USA, UK and Norway. Secretary to the US Treasury Jacob J. Lew is one of the Governors. Hans Brattskar - State Secretary of Norway, John Baird - Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada are also among other governors. Interestingly, our President Mahinda has been made a Vice Chair.
The overhead water tank was built on part of the land belonging to the Fever Hospital (IDH). IDH was built by the British on the highest part of Colombo to minimize the spread of infectious diseases. A part of this land was acquired from the Ministry of Health by the Water Board for the purpose of building the tank.

A top ADB official who visited the site suggested building an underground water reservoir on the IDH land to distribute water to Colombo City and its suburbs. Water will be pumped from Ambatale to this reservoir and stored and then distributed. This proposed tank will be 10 meters deep. Apparently, officials at the Water Board are in agreement with regards to this reservoir.

The IDH had been built in 1840s and since then thousands of patients with various infections had been admitted to this hospital. Thousands of patients with illness like smallpox (vasooriya), cholera, yaws (parangi) had died over the years and buried in this land. In addition, at present IDH treats lots of patients with typhoid, diarrhea, dengue, etc. and their faeces drained to underground septic tanks on the hospital land.
It is in this hospital land, the ADB is proposing to build the underground water tank. Germs will gradually seep into the water and spread swiftly. No concrete can prevent such seepage. Even concrete has capillary pores. So, it is quite obvious that viruses and bacteria which are much smaller than the size of these pores can seep into the water through the concrete wall of the underground tank. A very small crack caused by the tiniest earth quake is enough to cause much bigger contamination.  

Erika Henderson, director of research states in the journal Water Efficiency, “….contaminated groundwater can also seep into the tank. …..pathogenic microorganisms that create water-borne diseases are still sometimes found in public water systems. …These infections can spread rapidly, and sometimes even create an epidemic”. In fact, such outbreaks of infections have been reported even in countries like the UK and USA. Japanese, in spite of their extremely sophisticated technology, had a leak of radio-active water from the underground water tank in Fakushima. In 2008, in Israel, Environmental Protection Ministry, the Civil Administration and the Israeli Nature and National Parks Service (NPS) revealed that their underground water reservoirs in the West Bank are in severe risk of contamination due to wastewater.

The Health Ministry authorities have objected to this proposal and suggested alternative sites, for the proposed underground water reservoir at nearby places. However, the ADB has said it would fund it only if it is done at this hospital premises. The officials of the Water Board are reportedly determined to see the project happen.
So, Sri Lankan will not only have to repay the loan with interest, but also risk infections with all sorts of contagious viruses.

Last modified on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 10:55
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