Thursday, March 10, 2011

Children developing deformities in Punjab''s border villages

Chandigarh, Mar 9 (PTI) Children living in the border villages of Punjab''s Ferozepur district are developing various health problems, most of them losing their eye sight, after consuming heavily polluted groundwater.
A number of children in villages of Dona Nanka, Teja Rawela, Matam Nagar and Bhanewala among many others in Fazilka belt of Ferozepur district are suffering from loss of vision and hearing, greying of hair, skin diseases, physical deformities and mental retardation due to consumption of the heavily contaminated water.
The water of Sutlej gets polluted close to the Indo-Pak border due to discharge of toxic heavy metals like mercury, lead and chromium into the river by industries in Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Muktsar, Moga and Kasur town of Pakistan.
The toxics have also entered the area''s water table.
Shankar Singh, 23, a resident of Dona Nanka village close to the border, lost his eyesight a decade ago and his younger brother Visakha, who was born healthy, went deaf and dumb as he grew up.
Lovjeet Singh, a teacher at a government primary school at Dona Nanka said out of the total 180 children at the school, at least 120 have some or the other physical abnormality.
Even cattle, crops and birds appear unhealthy in the border villages, he said, adding that often dead fish are found floating in the channel.
"The state government is doing little about the plight of residents of border villages who have become handicapped as they are forced to consume poisonous water of Sutlej river," Singh said.
The villagers, who bank upon ground water drawn through handpumps, have no option but to drink the brackish water, he said.
Noted Punjabi comedian Bhagwant Mann, who has set up an NGO ''Lok Lehar Foundation'' to provide all possible help to the affected children, said health department officials visit these villages and leave after collecting samples of water to examine its heavy metal content, but nothing is done after that.
"The politicians who go to these villages to seek votes during elections and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, in whose constituency some villages fall, are all mum over the plight of the residents of these villages," Mann said.

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