Shimla, the capital city of Himachal Pradesh is in grips of jaundice with reports of over 1,000 registered cases and seven deaths during past couple of months. According to investigation report submitted by Shimla Police’s special investigating team (SIT) and lab tests on drinking water supply, the cause of jaundice is contamination of sewage with rivulet Ashwani Khud, on which 30% population of Shimla is depended for drinking water supply.
Formation of special investigation team
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After jaundice cases reached a huge number and continued to rise during last three months, the Shimla MC (SMC) formed a team to review the condition of Malyana Sewage Treatment Plant. In its report, the team made shocking revelation regarding discharge of untreated sewage from the plant to Ashwani Khud. The Irrigation & Public Health Department pumps water from Ashwani Khud that is later supplied by the SMC to 30 percent of the capital’s population.
A team of experts from Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) also took sample of water from Ashwani Khud and Malyana Sewage Treatment Planf or quality testing.
The NCDC team found both hepatitis A and hepatitis E virus was circulating in the capital. Both viruses are found in sewage and are transmitted through contaminated water.
After investigation Shimla Police SIT, which was formed on an FIR lodged by Sanjay Chauhan, found serious discrepancies in functioning of the treatment plant and has arrested an IPH supervisor and Junior Engineering while the contractor is still absconding.
The SIT concluded that the outbreak was caused due to mixing of untreated sewage with water of Ashwani Khud. The team visited the treatment plant in Malayana and found that it’s not working properly and was in very poor condition.
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The team reported discharge of raw effluents from the plant.
Two government officials, Executive Engineer Vinod Kumar and SDE SC Chauhan were placed under suspensions while Superintending Engineering Sushil Kumar Justa was transferred.
SMC has also served notice to the IPH’s engineering department for ‘negligence’.
The High Court of Himachal Pradesh has also taken suo moto cognizance based on reports published in newspapers and other media sources.
Over 100 cases of Jaundice were also reported from district Solan that receives its drinking water supply from the Ashwani Khud too.
After jaundice outbreak, the State Health Department is also forced to take immediate steps to prevent further spread of disease. Along with SMC, health department claims to have initiated campaigns to aware people about spread and prevention from Jaundice.
The department has requested people to avoid drinking water from natural water sources, especially ‘baoris’. The water of these baoris has been declared unsafe for drinking. Responsible departments were supposed to put notice boards on such water sources to warn people about water contamination.
Considering rapid spread of jaundice water supply from Ashwani Khud has been stopped completely. Water supply from alternative sources is being supplied to Shimla on alternative days instead of daily basis. According to Chief secretary PC Dhiman, a sharp decline has been recorded in number of fresh Jaundice cases.
Meanwhile, political parties and government departments are trying to put onus for outbreak on each other. The health department claims that no death due to jaundice was recorded in Shimla while credible sources confirmed about seven deaths so far.
The outbreak has sparked a huge debate over apathy of government toward people, who were put on risk deliberately. Minor protests by small group/societies and political parties were also reported from Shimla. According to activists and the Mayor, similar jaundice outbreaks were reported earlier too, but the government did not act timely.