K'taka govt ill-prepared for potential health crisis

Lingamma rummages through the remains of her house for her belongings, following floods at Karadikodu Virajpete taluk in Madikeri district on Thursday. dh photo/B H Shivakumar

A stench of decay engulfs Kondangeri, one of the villages that were submerged by Cauvery waters for more than three days from August 9, reducing everything into waste. A health risk looms over the residents who are trying to save whatever is left of their belongings. Lack of coordination among departments may lead to an outbreak of diseases.

As moderate rain lashes Virajpet taluk, the rotting foodgrains, vegetables, clothes and other materials and the stagnant water pose serious health issues to 120 families in the village. The administration seems hardly prepared to meet the challenge.

Chlorination of wells

When DH visited the village situated on the banks of Cauvery, Mohammed Afzar Pasha, a junior health assistant from Tumakuru deputed to monitor health risk mitigation works in Virajpet, was busy instructing his assistants on chlorination of open wells.

Pots containing water laced with bleaching powder (calcium hypochlorite) were dropped into the well, with the help of a pulley. Some of the staff emptied the water collected in open vessels. 

Ten other wells in the area filled with muddy water were not subjected to chlorination as the officials ran out of the disinfectant. The large pools of stagnant water created by the overflowing river may soon turn into mosquito-breeding grounds.

Rukhiya T M, who lost her house in the floods, questioned officials why none of the officials was explaining anything to the residents. “You come here to do your work without telling us what is happening. At least tell us what we have to do to remain safe,” she said.

A A Hamza asked what should they do for drinking water after they run out of the stored water treated with halogen tablets. “The taps are dry. What should we do tomorrow or later?,” Hamza said.

'No threat of diseases'

District Health Officer Dr Mohan said 15 teams had been deployed in flood-hit areas of the district and they will monitor the health of villagers. “We are covering every nook and corner of flood-hit taluks. There is enough stock of disinfectants, drugs and steps are being taken to prevent any outbreak,” he said.

To a question about safe drinking water for residents, Mohan said the people have been given guidance in relief camps about post-disaster steps they need to follow once they return home. “From drinking boiled water to psycho-social analysis, we have not left out anything. It may take some time for them to adjust to the circumstances,” he said.

When it was pointed out that many of the survivors did not have utensils or fuel to boil water, the DHO said the department concerned may be working on the issue. “From the health aspect, I can say we are not leaving anything to chance,” he said.

Though a handful of officials seemed to be doing their best, the work at the ground level seems inadequate, as any disease outbreak will prove costly for the administration.

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