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Authorities urged to show urgency

Thursday, July 31, 2008
By our correspondent

Karachi

In the wake of the onset of the monsoons, if immediate steps are not taken to drain out accumulated rain water, to carry out a massive fumigation drive and to clean the filthy atmosphere, there is strong possibility of an outbreak of gastroenteritis, malaria, dengue fever and other diseases, health experts warned on Wednesday.

They also advised citizens to take precautionary measures such as boiling water and cleaning water tanks in order to avoid consumption of contaminated water and to avoid food sold in open spaces.

"The main reason behind contaminated water is that almost all main water lines pass through drains/Nullahs," said Perveen Rehman of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP).

She said that the main water lines from 12 to 36 inches even in Clifton (Nahar-e-Khayam), Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Nazimabad were laid inside the Nullahs (storm-water drains), which develop leakages, leading to contamination of the water passing through. She recalled that when they started desilting of Nullahs in the city along with the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) two years ago, the officials concerned were surprised to see that such huge waterlines passed through Nullahs. When water-borne diseases increased in Korangi recently, causing some deaths and sending hundreds of people to hospitals, it was later revealed that not only drinking water lines but waste of industries also pass through the same Nullah, she added.
 She suggested that siphoning, bypassing and jacketing (covering one pipe with another pipe) are three modes to avoid contamination of water. Rehman said that they have started work on four-five Nullahs but they were facing difficulties because of the attitude of concerned Nazims, who were more interested in short-term gains as diverting water lines would deprive the citizens of water for some time.

Central secretary-general, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), Dr Habib Rehman Soomro, said that around 500,000 new cases of malaria were reported last year as the malaria eradication programme has failed to deliver the desired results. He said that the sewerage system had collapsed despite the tall claims of the officials, because of which rain water continues to accumulate - consequently providing breeding grounds to mosquitoes. He said that, since 1996, when dengue cases were reported for the first time, doctors have been expressing concern but the authorities concerned did not take adequate steps to control the situation. Since 2000, dengue has assumed epidemic proportions. He said that two people had already died in the city recently and the emergence of dengue in Islamabad and Pindi indicated the virus was spreading.

He asked the authorities to carry out a massive cleanliness drive, to dewater areas, to conduct spray on a regular basis and alert public health officials in advance to cope with the situation.

"Boiled water is the safest way to avoid many diseases," said Dr A.G. Nagi, head of National Institute of Child Health (NICH). He said that food should be covered and protected against flies. He said that, in case of diarrhea, people should not panic. Instead, they should immediately start giving ORS to children, continue feeding along with yogurt and rice.

Newly-appointed focal person on dengue, Dr Shakil Mullick said that two cases of dengue were reported on Wednesday at a private hospital. He said that the health department had already taken steps to control dengue. Civil Hospital, Karachi (CHK) has been selected to set up a screening facility for citizens, he said. Public sector hospitals in defunct districts of the city have also been asked to provide facility against dengue. He said that a cell separator would also be installed at the CHK within a week to provide platelets to indoor patients free of cost.