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Pakistan

Fluoride-heavy water wreaks havoc in Tharis’ lives

A.B. Arisar

UMERKOT, Aug 8: Elderly Pir Bux Rind sits next to Bhagbhari, his 35-year-old daughter who lies paralysed on a cot, and tries to comfort her at his straw- thatched home in Samoon Rind village, 120 kilometres from here. She suffered the paralysis after consuming water heavily contaminated by fluoride.

Pointing to her, Rind said that she was like a doll when she was born and grew up like normal children in the days when there was enough water and rains used to bring prosperity.

“Nowadays, rains do not bring prosperity. They store rainwater but most of it was evaporated. It rains belatedly, mostly in erratic pattern, sometimes heavy and sometimes light but both cause them only losses,” he said.

He said that her daughter was not the only woman who had suffered paralysis there were 40 other such women. “People say it is because of the polluted water,” he said.

But Pir Bux personally believes the disease is a result of a curse a Pir had inflicted on the village 20 years ago in punishment for disobedience. After his departure, one Manak Rind fell ill and suffered paralysis followed by many other men and women, he said.

But Jani Rind of the same village rejects Pir Bux’s ideas. He put the blame on polluted underground water contaminated by fluoride. Even the recent outbreak of disease among peacocks was caused by shortage of grains, food, fodder, water and warm weather, he said.

He said that more than 50 sheep and goats perished in his village. They tried to save their only source of livelihood but medicines did not work on them because they were effective only when the animals’ bellies were full, he said. There was no sweet water for people, livestock and wildlife.

Jan Mohammad Samoon, a social worker, said that his organisation, the Applied Water And Renewable Energy, along with researcher Dr Tahir Rafiq got water samples taken from different villages examined by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) and the results showed that it contained 20 to 32 ml/per litre fluoride and 89 per cent of it was unfit for human consumption. WHO recommends fluoride should be less than 1.5mg/litre. He said that rainwater or irrigation water was fit for them but it was not available.

The world talked about the need for sanitation and clean drinking water but people did not have access to even one drop of drinking water in his area, he said.

According to Dr Iftikhar Ahmed of Dow Medical University, Bhagbhari and other paralysed people in Samoo Rind village are suffering from dental and skeletal fluorosis caused by intakes of water with high contents of fluoride.

Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan 

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About WashMedia-South Asia

WashMedia-South Asia is a group of South Asian journalists working on water, sanitation and hygiene issues. Theses journalists are from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

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