Image Credit:  Original Images from Gerd Altmann & PDPics, Pixabay 

A Case study written by   – Sachin Kumar (M.Sc. Student, Shoolini University)

The river Ganga water is considered as holy water in the world since time immemorial, but what if you know that the purest water of the world is now converted to the water of diseases or death. What?  Yes, it is very true in the present scenario of Bihar. Let me tell you a story of Priti, a girl from Sabalpur village of Saran district of Bihar and was a student of Geology. In her family seven people died due to disease of cancer, as she lost her father, uncle, mother and cousin due to the different types of cancer. In 2019, she came to a cancer institute with the complaint of a pea sized lump in her breast, she was afraid when she visited the oncologist. The oncologist asked her about the family history, he was surprised after knowing that, seven persons in her family have already died due to the cancer. Moreover, many of the other villagers also died with cancer disease in recent time.

After that research team of Mahavir Cancer Sansthan visited the village and carried out the health assessment along with the household water analysis. The study reported that the drinking water of the village had elevated levels of arsenic, which was very high in contrast to the minimum permissible level of WHO (10 ug/L). The villagers also told that the water taken from the hand pump turned into the yellow color after 5 minutes. 

 

When we talked to Dr. Arun Kumar who is one of the senior scientist at  Mahavir Cancer Santhan and Research Center and working in the field of arsenic contamination and arsenic mitigation, he told  us that the Priti as well as many of the others villagers of Sabalpur were having typical arsenicosis  symptoms skin manifestations such as hyperkeratosis, melanosis and other diseases  such as diabetes, hypertension, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, stomachache, breathlessness, hormonal disorders, mental disability and cancer malignancy. The team also analysed the n=128 household hand pump water samples and was surprised after knowing the result that 61% of the samples was found with the elevated levels of arsenic contamination. However, the percentage of the cancer cases in Sabalpur village was quite low at 0.96%, but according to him this number is going to increase in this particular area as the population was at very high risk of arsenic poisoning. Hence, proper steps for the mitigation of arsenic are immediately required. 

 

On the other hand, Priti also told us that “Kaash pehle pata hota ki paani se cancer hota hai to sayad unki family bach jaati”. Now she is in dilemma and she doesn’t know what to do with her breast lump as it is increasing in size day by day. The oncologist suggested to go for the surgery so that,the lump can be removed and then it will not be fatal to her. But she is now really very scared of the surgery scars and also with the breakup of the relationship with the groom which is fixed for her marriage. She has many questions in her mind, like whether her husband will support her after knowing about this breast lumps? Will society help her? Whether she is able to feed her child or not, there are many more questions in her mind which are yet unsolved. 

This indicates that village Sabalpur as well as many other arsenic exposed population,especially which are near tothe river Ganga are at very high risk and the percentage of disease burden might  increase many folds in the coming future in the state of Bihar.