On Tuesday (March 16), about 50 people fell ill, after drinking contaminated water in the Shashi Shekhar Bose road area in Bhowanipore in South Kolkata. Bhowanipore is the Vidhan Sabha constituency of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
As per reports, the tap water in Ward No.73 and Ward No.74 of Bhowanipore got contaminated with sewage from a nearby drain. As a result, about 50 people developed severe diarrhoea and had to be hospitalised. Several infants were also infected due to the consumption of polluted water. Over a span of two days, the number of infected individuals rose to 55. Three people, including a 5-year-old child, died due to the contamination.
Following the outbreak of diarrhoea, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) had sent water trucks to Bhowanipore and directed the locals to not use tap water. The municipal authorities initiated a drive to clean water tanks and sewers in the area. Besides Bhowanipore, 12 inmates have been infected with diarrhoea in Alipore Women Correctional Centre.
Contamination not cause of death: Firhad Hakim
“Contamination has occurred. I don’t disagree. But, then, a situation of panic was created. It is not normal for anyone to die by drinking contaminated water. The sewage might have contaminated the tap water due to blockage caused by plastic. This might lead to stomach ailments but connecting the fatalities to the contamination is wrong,” claimed Kolkata Mayor and TMC leader Firhad Hakim.
Kolkata Municipal Corporation ‘rules out’ water contamination
KMC member Mainak Mukherjee even alleged that the water was not contaminated at all. “We had sent water samples to the laboratory run by the Health Department. We did not find any evidence of contamination”, he said. This is despite the fact that the locals have complained about stinky, dirty water pouring from their taps. Meanwhile, the Municipal authorities have commenced the work of finding leaking underground water pipes.
BJP stages protest against water-borne fatalities in Bhowanipore
The BJP has launched a protest, following allegations of water contamination. While hitting back at the Trinamool Congress administration, BJP leader Shashi Agnihotri said, “Ward No. 73 is the residence of the Chief Minister. She has her party co-ordinator and Chairman here. Despite this, such an incident has occured here. This is why we are protesting against it. “
Sensors installed to monitor water quality
In the aftermath of fatalities, the Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (Hideo) has been installing sensors in overhead tanks to track the water quality. The body has directed the cleaning of public toilets and overheads tanks in markets in the New Town area. It has also asked the residents to clean tanks and underground reservoirs, every 3 months.
An official informed, “There are 23 overhead water tanks in New Town. We are installing smart sensors in nine water tanks for random checking and monitoring of the water quality. Reports will be generated every 24 hours on the water quality in these tanks,” said an official.