High iron content in drinking water cause for concern in Kankai MunicipalityAround 1,200 families in Wards 1 and 2 of the municipality are dependent on groundwater for their water needs.
Most residents of Durgapur in Kankai Municipality, Jhapa, avoid wearing white clothes for fear of ruining the colour and fabric of their clothes. There is hardly a family in the settlement who is currently not on medication for skin-related diseases brought about by the presence of iron in the water they source from tubewells.
Around 1,200 households of Kankai Municipality-1 and 2 have been compelled to use groundwater with iron content for their daily water needs.
Khagendra Niraula, a native of Kankai, said that the villagers have installed 25 to 35 feet deep tubewells in the municipality to meet their water needs; however, the wells were installed without the conducting of tests for iron presence.
Villagers use the traditional way of filtration—using sand and pebbles, in order to remove the iron content from the water before use. “After filtration, we boil the water before using it to cook or drink. But the water carries a foul smell even after we boil it,” said Niraula. The villagers use the same water to do their laundry, clean their houses and even to bathe. “We have rashes and feel itchy after taking a bath. We are always taking medicines for possible skin diseases because we have no other option,” says Niraula. “Our new batch of livestock refuse to drink water for the first few days; the old ones are used to it.”
According to the World Health Organization, the 0.3 parameter is the permissible international standard for iron concentration. “But as per the Nepal standard, people can drink water (with iron content) up to 3 parameters,” said Manoj Pokharel, a technician of the Drinking Water Office, adding that groundwater in Kankai-1 and 2 cannot be consumed directly, as it has more than 8 parameters iron content.
Shambhu Gyawali, chief of surveillance and research section at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, Kathmandu, said that drinking iron-laden water can cause various skin-related problems, indigestion and intestine problems in the long run.
In Ward-1, authorities had conducted iron tests in the water five years ago. Back then, ward chairman Roshan Raj Pokharel had said that there was no alarming levels of iron present in the water.
There are around 1,200 families living in Kankai-1 and -2, and among them, 400 households living in Ward-1 use water from the Bhawani Drinking Water Project in Ward-7. Likewise, 300 households in Ward-2 are drinking water from the Kankai Drinking Water Project in Kankai Municipality.
Tara Prasad Khanal, a resident of Kankai, said that they have been facing difficulties for a long time now but the concerned authorities have not paid attention to their problems. “We have to replace sand and pebbles (used in filter) every 15 days. If we don’t do so, the filter becomes muddy and unusable,” said Khanal.
According to him, the local unit has not yet taken the initiative to conduct tests to determine the exact level of iron content in the water in the tubewells. He said, “Of late, we ourselves haven’t done any tests and the local unit also has not initiated such tests. This needs a permanent solution, but before one is found, the local body can at least supply drinking water to the two wards.”
Four years ago, Jamunkhadi Drinking Water Project was established to supply drinking water to the two wards in the municipality. The project is still incomplete, and project officials say they need more than Rs 20 million to complete the project. Rishikesh Khatiwada, chairman of the project, said that the provincial government only allocated Rs 500,000 for the project this year. “We have to construct an overhead tank and it will cost us more than Rs 20 million,” said Khatiwada, adding that the budget allocated by the provincial government is insufficient.
The provincial government had also allocated Rs 2 million to upgrade another project, the Prajapati Drinking Water Project, this year.
To push the government to take action, on June 25, locals had picketed Kankai Municipality Office demanding completion of the construction of drinking water projects soon.
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