Sunday, November 23, 2014

WIO Update: Jaundice takes epidemic proportion in Sambalpur!

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) Update on Jaundice Epidemic in Sambalpur – 23rd November 2014

Jaundice is taking epidemic proportion in Sambalpur!

About 30 people are said to have died of jaundice in the city during the last six months; hundreds admitted in different hospitals at the moment…

Saving Mahanadi from pollution, correcting drinking water supply systems, initiating proper garbage and sewerage management, regulating unhygienic food and augmenting health facilities are urgently needed…

Sambalpur Municipality, Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OPCB), Public Health and Engineering Department (PHED) and Health Department have to share equal responsibility for this…

Jaundice, in the form of Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E, is spreading in epidemic proportion in the Sambalpur city and peripheral areas.  While the health department officials are blaming contaminated water for this, the PHED is not taking the responsibility.  Reports from field sources point that hundreds of jaundice affected people are admitted in various hospitals and nursing homes at the moment.  Media reports are coming in claiming that at least 30 people have died due to jaundice in six months. 

Contaminated food and water are the main reasons for such forms of jaundice.  Industrial pollution may be another cause. 

Hepatitis A is primarily transmitted by the faecal-oral route that is when an uninfected person ingests food or water that has been contaminated with the faeces of an infected person. It can be food borne or waterborne.  Outbreaks of this disease, that directly affects the liver, is usually associated with sewage-contaminated or inadequately treated water.  The Hepatitis E too is transmitted mainly through contaminated drinking water. It is usually a self-limiting infection and resolves within 4–6 weeks. Occasionally, a fulminant form of hepatitis develops (acute liver failure), which can lead to death. 

Drinking contaminated water and bathing in such water can lead to jaundice caused by these viruses.  Sambalpur has very old pipelines and many vulnerable points where the drain water – containing faecal sludge – can enter into the pipelines, making it the perfect grooming place for jaundice epidemic.

In June last year, our campaign’s citizen survey had revealed the disastrous state of our water bodies, Mahanadi and the sewerage management system.  It is time to remind what we had found out last year, as published in our factsheet:

A factsheet that was prepared based on the citizen’s survey of Mahanadi pollution revealed that Mahanadi is a heavily polluted stretch from Hirakud to Sambalpur.  Untreated polluted water gets drained into Mahanadi through at least 14 points between these two cities, that’s about a 15 kilometer stretch.  These drains bring in about 40 Million Litre of Sewage into the river besides about 100 Metric Tonne of solid waste that find way to Mahanadi in different ways.  While about 40 per cent of the Sambalpur city defecates in open, at least 10 thousand people defecate on the bank of the river itself.  This is a daily health disaster as about 30 thousand people take bath in the 50 odd ghats from Hirakud to Sambalpur. 

Despite of our regular warning the Sambalpur Municipality has miserably failed in managing the wastes and in creating sufficient public facilities to stop open defecation.  Similarly, the Pollution Control Board has also failed in in its job of controlling such contamination and pollution.  This can be termed criminal negligence.

There are also forms of jaundice that take place due to heavy industrial pollution from aluminium smelters and coal fired power plants which discharge their wastes directly into Mahanadi and other water bodies. There is an urgent need of taking up a detailed study of all the jaundice cases and find out the real reasons so that the menace can be controlled.  We have been urging upon the state government in this regard but it believes in the OPCB which is known for its lenience towards industrial houses of the state.  The pollution control board’s claims that industries are not discharging wasters into Mahanadi is completely false and ridden with vested interest.  What we need is independent investigations.

At this moment, all the above mentioned departments should step up their actions to control the jaundice from taking an epidemic proportion.  Strict regulations for street food vendors, cleaning of all contaminated water sources, arresting leakages in water supply pipelines and initiation of replacement of the old ones, proper treatment of the water being supplied, augmentation of the medical facilities in the city, increase in the public toilet facilities, monitoring of existing toilets including individual toilets, etc. are some of the steps the administration must initiate without further delay.

For further information, please contact:

Ranjan Panda

Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance)

Mobile: +91-9437050103

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Coal is too dangerous for pregnant women: an EHN story from India!

Coal's black wind: Pregnant women in parts of India advised to stay away

Amritraj Stephen/Community Environmental Monitoring
Much of India's coal comes from Jharia, in eastern India, where fires from opencast coal mines constantly smolder.
  Staff Writer
  Environmental Health News
Nov. 20, 2014
In some regions of India, a married woman will return to her mother’s house for the last trimester of pregnancy and the birth of her child. But in Mettur, pregnant women are advised by their doctors to stay away.
Amritraj Stephen/Community Environmental Monitoring
Children walk among smoldering coal fires in Jharia, India.
“Black wind” from a coal yard wafts constantly across poor neighborhoods, settling on rooftops, walking paths and even indoor furniture. People complain of asthma, wheezing and frequent colds.
In its bid to industrialize, India relies heavily on energy from coal. Accounting for 71 percent of India’s electricity, coal will remain a key player over the next decade, with 455 new plants proposed, according to energy experts.
Amritraj Stephen/Community Environmental Monitoring
Coal plants produce 71 percent of India's electricity.
The poor pay the highest cost of India’s dependence on coal, said Jennifer Wang of the nonprofit group Health Care Without Harm. Already burdened by chronic disease, poor nutrition and inadequate health care, they also are highly exposed to air and water pollution, she said.
Mettur and other industrial cities throughout India are now mobilizing to document coal's health impacts on their own residents in an effort to wring environmental protections from local politicians and world leaders.
Coal poses health risks in India at all stages – mining, transportation, storage and use:
♦ In Jharia, famous for its rich coal resources, 700,000 people are exposed to toxic smoke that seeps from the ground as fires from opencast coalmines burn around the clock. Residents suffer from asthma, chronic bronchitis and skin problems.
♦ In Gujarat, on the west coast, fish catches plummeted after the construction of a massive 4,800-megawatt coal plant destroyed mangrove and creek ecosystems by discharging polluted water in the sensitive ecosystem.
♦ Mercury-laced ash from five mega power plants in the Singrauli district in central India is stored in piles five feet thick, polluting air, water and soil.
♦ In Mettur, in southern India, a coal yard where fuel is shipped in by rail and stored for a power plant and factories stands just 100 feet from some homes. Coal dust blows from the yard into neighboring communities. Air pollution levels are high.
Women in Mettur, a city of about 50,000 with a variety of heavy industries, are hit particularly hard. Doctors often recommend that pregnant women leave.
Gonur West Agriculturist Development Union
In Mettur, coal trains unload next to a low-income neighborhood.
About 1,500 mostly low-income households are within reach of the coal yard dust, said Shweta Narayan of Community Environmental Monitoring, an environmental justice group in India.
“Women are told not to have their babies here. The pollution affects not only their daily lives, but their culture,” Narayan said.
“Women are told not to have their babies here. The pollution affects not only their daily lives, but their culture.” Shweta Narayan, Community Environmental Monitoring, India  A 2010 analysis by Narayan's group found that airborne particles in Mettur were three to four times higher than the World Health Organization’s pollution guidelines. Worldwide, these tiny particles have been linked to increased deaths from lung and cardiovascular disease. Air quality measurements also suggest that Mettur’s air contains metal particles, such as manganese and nickel, which could harm child brain development.
Parents complain that their children are always sick. Kids often miss school due to wheezing. But complaints about sickness are largely anecdotal. Scientific analysis of the health impacts of coal pollution is lacking in Mettur and other communities.
“The health aspect has been largely ignored in India’s energy policy framing,” Narayan said.
Much of the evidence of health effects from coal pollution comes from the United States or Western Europe, which are much cleaner.
Amritraj Stephen/Community Environmental Monitoring
Coal plants have contaminated water and fish in some parts of India.
“There’s a lack of research regarding long-term exposure to air pollution in some of the world’s most polluted places, including India,” said Aaron Cohen, an epidemiologist at the Health Effects Institute in Boston.
“There’s a lack of research regarding long-term exposure to air pollution in some of the world’s most polluted places, including India.” Aaron Cohen, Health Effects Institute, Boston   An estimated 627,000 Indians die prematurely each year from outdoor air pollution, according to the World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Disease project. A 2012 Greenpeace India report estimated that about 20 percent of premature deaths and more than 20 million asthma cases each year could be attributed to coal pollution.
Next year, the nonprofit Community Environmental Monitoring will begin to screen people near the coal yard for asthma and other lung problems. They’ll also look for other effects in the women because “pollution manifests itself in different forms, including stress and anxiety,” Narayan said.
“Do we need more research to act? No. We know the immediate health effects from generating energy this way and the long-term effects from climate change,” said Dr. Peter Orris, director of the Global Toxics Policy Program at the University of Illinois School of Public Health. “But how do you convince local policy makers to take action? People need to feel a connection.”
Many of India's coal plants and mines are government-run.
In some ways, energy regulations to curtail fossil fuel burning may be an easier sell in developing countries than in the United States, said Rachel Cleetus, senior economist with the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Carbon reduction efforts, such the landmark deal struck this week between the United States and China, are viewed largely as climate-change policies.
Growing concern over polluted air and water in China and India is more immediate. “Air and water pollution may be of concern to us, but to them it’s becoming a public health crisis,” Cleetus said.
The health costs associated with coal-fired power stations cost the European Union about 53 billion U.S. dollars each year, according to a report by the Health and Environment Alliance. No such economic analysis exists for India.
“Coal tends to look cheap when health and environmental costs aren’t taken into account. There is a huge need for monetizing the public health costs, especially in developing countries,” Cleetus said.
Looking to China, Cohen said, “it’s hard to argue that economic development there, in which coal has certainly played a role, hasn’t had significant beneficial effects on poverty reduction and population health. But it’s becoming evident that high levels of air pollution from coal burning and other sources is having an adverse effect on population health and life expectancy and is now an obstacle to continued development.”
Nevertheless, the energy landscape is beginning to change. China and India are the fastest growing markets in the world for wind and solar, Cleetus said.
“It’s not that old static picture anymore that coal is king,” she said. “We see that being challenged both in the U.S. and abroad.”

Coal Ministry seeks Public Comments on Draft of rules under Coal Mines Special Provision Ordinance 2014!


Thanks and regards,


Coal Ministry Places in Public Domain Draft Rules for Auction or Allocation of 204 Coal Blocks Cancelled by Hon’ble Supreme Court

Comments & Suggestions can be Sent by Email Till 24th November

           In order to implement provisions of the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Ordinance, 2014 promulgated on 21.10.2014 , the Ministry of Coal has today placed in public domain the draft Rules namely Coal Mines (Special Provisions)Rules, 2014 . 

Public can send in their comments to the following email by 9 AM on 24th November 2014.


Please links to relevant documents.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Good Morning Thought - 20th November 2014!

Sharing others' pain increases your own strength against life's challenges...

Good Morning!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thought on World Toilet Day 2014!

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

Greetings on World Toilet Day 2015!

India’s real toilet story neither starts with a toilet, nor ends with it.  Millions are mere statistical owners of toilets and don’t actually use it, while millions who use don’t know they are adding to more filth.  Faecal sludge discharged from most of our toilets end up polluting our Rivers and Water Bodies and thus add up to the already poor sanitation condition of India.

India has rightly geared up for a Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) but it should move beyond sweeping streets and creating photo-ops for people.  The opportunity should now be created for the ‘real sanitation’ to take place. 

This World Toilet Day, I would once again like to share with you an article (pasted below) that was written last year on this day.  The message is still relevant.

Look forward to your support in saving our Rivers and Water Bodies and make India truly a ‘Swachh Bharat’…

Thanks and regards,

Ranjan Panda

Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Waterkeeper Alliance)
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India

Cell: +91-9470-50103

Skype: ranjan.climatecrusader
Tweet @ranjanpanda


BLOG : Sanitation Is Not About Toilets Alone

World Toilet Day is approaching and we already see a lot of action, starting from the local to the global level, asking people to build and use toilets. It is commonly believed that the more the number of persons with toilets, the more the sanitised a habitation is.
This is not only a very narrow approach to sanitation but also leaves a lot of scope for the organisations responsible to ensure sanitation to shirk their other important duties that include management of various forms of wastes, including septage and garbage. Urban areas, which supposedly have more toilets than the rural areas, need to seriously ponder around ‘integrated sanitation’ rather than just toilets.
India should be ashamed of the sanitation situation prevailing in the country. The Census 2011 figures pointed out that half the households in the country do not have toilets as yet. Other independent estimates put the figure at as high as two thirds. Urban slums, in particular, have very limited or no access to sanitation services.
One in six urban Indians is a slum dweller and most of them do not have any sanitation facilities. What is important to note is that urban India is simply not capable of managing the wastes it generates. Conservative estimates suggest that over eighty per cent of municipal solid waste across five thousand plus towns (approximately 42 million tonnes per annum) is currently disposed of in a haphazard manner without following the rules of the land.
Urban Odisha, floating on wastes
Odisha is no different. Though the share of urban dwellers in the state’s population is still only about 16.68 per cent, the wastes these habitations generate are becoming a huge problem for rivers, water bodies, farm fields and the ecology at large. It’s not merely because we don’t have toilets, but also because we have failed miserably in managing sanitation. While the poor don’t have toilets, others are in need of proper drainage, garbage and sewerage management systems
A little more than 35% of urban households in the state do not have toilets, Census 2011 reveals. This is the second highest in the nation. It is estimated that at least one third of the urban people in the state defecates in the open. This, however, does not mean that the rest are sanitised households. Toilets connected to sewer lines would not constitute even 10 per cent of the total number of toilets in urban Odisha. Forty five per cent of households apparently have septic tanks.
Ranjan Panda
Ranjan Panda
However, field visits to cities suggest that not even half of these are proper septic tanks. None of the municipalities and NACs in the state is sufficiently equipped to clean septic tanks. As such, the sludge cleaned is disposed of at just about any place that the vehicles find convenient. It could be the side of a road, surface water bodies, rivers, farm fields and so on. Urban waste has also started encroaching into the nearby rural areas.
Our policy planners and the educated urban population believe that ‘open defecation’ is a shame and mars the aesthetics of the city. However, they never question where the sludge from their toilets goes. Each city of the state still has manual scavengers. Surprisingly, that is still not considered a shame.
Sanitation also means clean rivers and water bodies
Besides open defecation on river banks and surface water bodies, drain and sewer water also pollutes our rivers and water bodies. In turn, they create unhygienic conditions for city dwellers and the local environment. This is a silent killer.
Consider the capital city, which does not have an adequate drainage system. Closed drains cover a 103 sq. km area running through a little over 37 km. The majority of the system consists of open and natural drains. All natural streams and waterways have been converted into drains. The city has no proper sewerage treatment plant. The collected sewage is treated in three oxidation ponds and three aerated lagoons at different locations. However, these systems are in a shambles and are mostly non-functional. They merely function as flow through systems. Even if they were functional, they could treat less than half the total sewage generated in the city.
Bhubaneswar at present generates more than 200 MLD of sewage per day and almost all of it finds its way into the Gangua Nullah, Daya River and Mahanadi.
Cuttack, the other major city, is infamous as the city of drains. The city generates about 172 MLD of sewage, most of which goes to pollute Mahanadi and Kathajodi rivers.
We conducted a citizen’s survey in Sambalpur city and found that untreated polluted water gets drained into Mahanadi through at least 14 points between Hirakud and Sambalpur which is about a 15 kilometre stretch. These drains bring in about 40 Million litres of sewage into the river, besides about 100 tonnes of solid waste that find their way to Mahanadi in different ways.
While about 40 per cent of the Sambalpur city population defecates in the open, at least 10 thousand people defecate on the bank of the river itself. This is a daily health disaster as about 30 thousand people take bath in the 50 odd ghats from Hirakud to Sambalpur. The situation is the same in almost all the cities of the state.
The time has come to look into sanitation beyond just toilets. Toilets are necessary; but more than that, we need responsible and accountable municipalities and governments that plan integrated sanitation systems.
* The author, popularly known as Water Man of Odisha, is a leading water expert of the nation. He convenes a network called ‘Water Initiatives Odisha’ and can be contacted at

Good Morning Thought - 19th November 2014!

We are a landscape of what we have gone through...

Good Morning!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

India's 10 famous bird habitats in serious threat: Do only humans have the right to survive!

India's 10 famous bird habitats in serious danger, says study
Sunday, 16 November 2014 - 4:46pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

    Unsustainable developmental policies and rising insensitivity towards nature have put "in serious danger" at least 10 of the country's famous bird habitats including Gujarat's Flamingo City, a new study says.
    Conservation society Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) said that its recent findings clearly show that at least 10 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) - as they are now called globally – are in serious danger of being lost forever.
    BNHS studies and monitoring across the country have shown that the IBAs including Kutch's famous Flamingo City, Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Solapur-Ahmednagar of Maharashtra and Sewri-Mahul Creek in Mumbai are among the most threatened habitats in the country. Flamingo City is possibly the only breeding ground of the migratory bird in a great magnitude in Asia.
    The scattered grassland plots of the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary are home to the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard. Their population at the sanctuary has plummeted from 27 birds in 2006 to 12 in 2012 and a mere three birds in 2013.
    The other bird habitats which are in grave danger of losing tree cover include Sailana Kharmor Sanctuary in Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh; Tillangchong in Andaman-Nicobar; Dihaila Jheel and Karera Wildlife Sanctuary in Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh; Basai in Gurgaon, Haryana; Sardarpur Florican Sanctuary in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh and Ranebennur in Haveri, Karnataka. "Many other IBAs, although not on this list, are also threatened by various types of unsustainable human interference," says the new research titled "IBAs in Danger" by BNHS and its global partner BirdLife International.
    According to it, destruction or disturbance due to infrastructure development, wrong anti-people conservation policies, indiscriminate livestock grazing, industrial and sewage pollution, indiscriminate agricultural expansion including use of pesticides, rapid urbanisation and poaching are some of the major reasons behind the loss of biodiversity and habitat in these and other areas.
    "Unfortunately in India, nearly 50 per cent of the IBAs are not getting any sort of official recognition from the government agencies," said Raju Kasambe, Project Manager of BNHS' IBA Programme.
    "Our future generations will never pardon us for destroying the important habitats of birds in such a callous manner," he said.