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Christian Aid: Contaminated drinking water is a serious concern in Assam PDF Print E-mail
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Babu Thomas

Tens of thousands of people will be without safe drinking water for months due to the severe floods in Assam, Christian Aid cautioned on Wednesday.

The north-eastern state of Assam is suffering from its worst flooding in three decades. Millions were made homeless by incessant rains which have submerged most of the state and killed 117 people.

Ram Kishan, Christian Aid’s Regional Emergency Manager South Asia, said: "The main sources of drinking water, such as hand pumps and wells, are submerged in the flood waters so communities are taking their water supplies directly from the river. Lack of sanitary facilities in camps and villages mean this water is contaminated."

The consumption of the contaminated water, Kishan warned will lead to diarrhoea, dysentery and other water-borne diseases.

Taking a proactive effort, Christian Aid will be reaching the affected communities with water purification tablets, construction of sanitary blocks in the camps and installation of hand pumps to stop the situation deteriorating.

"Christian Aid is responding in Dhemaji, one of the most affected districts in Assam – including the Machkhowa block, an area which has not faced floods for more than a decade. We are planning to reach almost 50,000 people in the district. Our work will concentrate on water, sanitation and hygiene," informed Kishan.

The floods, since June 22, have affected all 27 districts of the state. The displaced villagers are taking shelter at government-run relief camps.

Ghasi Lal Gujar, Christian Aid’s Emergency Programme Officer who has just returned from visiting the affected areas, said: "Some communities have been forced to stay on embankments as they cannot get back to their villages so continuing monsoon could spell more disaster."

However, he pointed that the weak embankments, which are barely 10 to 20 feet in width, are overcrowded and living conditions are deteriorating every day.

He also added that those in relief camps will not be able to return to their homes for three months and all affected communities will face similar problems with clean water supplies.

"This year’s floods have been more severe than previous ones. Waters have brought debris from mining activities and sand from breaching embankments – which have destroying large areas of agriculture. Over 250,000 hectares of crop land has been flooded and over 50% of these crops have been lost," said Gujar.

Meanwhile, even as villagers are still reeling under the flood, violence raged in Kokrajhar and neighbouring districts of Assam between minority immigrants and Bodos.

The death toll went up to 58 even as army was called in to quell the violence.

"Complicating the [flood] situation is violence in the western part of Assam, an area also facing flooding, where ethnic conflict is leading to a massive humanitarian crisis, which has seen more than 30 killed and 40,000 displaced, putting extra pressure on state authorities," Anand Kumar, Christian Aid’s Country Director in India, said.

Christian Today India
June 27, 2012