Gobar Times
Green School

The Superbug Saga

WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT DOING?

Heard about the deadly Superbug? The drug resistant bacteria that has triggered a widely publicised debate over the quality of water in the capital? It all started when Lancet, one of the most sought after medical journals of the world, published a study warning us of the emergence of NDM-1, a new superbug in India that is making bacteria highly resistant to almost all antibiotics.

If Lancet is to be believed (and the government and politicians are trying their best to not let us), they found the NDM-1 gene in open water pools, overflowing sewage and even drinking water samples. Yes, even in drinking water samples. Does this mean that the gene can make the cholera and dysentery bacteria even stronger by making them antibiotic resistant? Yes, apparently so.

We all know how pollution damages water bodies and that it slaughters not only life that inhabits in the water eco-system, but also humans. NDM-1 is doing just that.

The Union government was in a denial mode after the Lancet findings were made public. Initially, even the Delhi government rubbished the study. However, the government is now conducting a study spanning over a period of six months to check the quality of water. So while the government spends six months to study, research and come out with a investigation report vis-à-vis the superbug, are we expected to continue using the allegedly contaminated water? Well, the Delhi authority seem to have a solution. They are supplying free chlorine tablets to ensure people’s safety and to prevent prevalent water-borne diseases.

WILL THE CHLORINE TABLETS WORK AGAINST THE ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT SUPERBUG?
We all have serious reasons to worry. According to scientists, the NDM-1 gene is copied and transferred between different bacteria fastest at 30°C— the average temperature in our country. Will the chlorine tablets work against the antibiotic resistant superbug then? And isn’t it true that the use of chlorine tablets beyond the permissible limits can cause toxicity?

RIGHT TO WATER IS ACTUALLY RIGHT TO LIFE AND LIVELIHOOD
The Constitution of India in its Article 21 titled 'protection of life and personal liberty' states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. In course of time, this concept has been expanded to include 'pollution free water and air for full enjoyment of life'. Well, having a law on right to water is not sufficient to realise the objective of making clean and portable water available to every citizen.
What can you do

■ Try and find out what your state has done vis-a-vis the right to clean water and protection of water bodies.
■ It is important that you are aware of the quality of water supplied in your homes and schools. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is a statutory organisation responsible to keep a check on pollution of water as well as air. One of its mandates is to collect, collate and disseminate technical and statistical data relating to water pollution. The Board has developed a water testing kit and distributed it among NGOs, schools and colleges. So what are you waiting for? Talk to your science teacher and contact the state office of CPCB, asking for a water testing kit. This kit will help you test the physical, chemical and biological quality of water that you use.
■ And yes, don’t forget to boil your water before drinking!

OUT OF A TOTAL OF 180 COUNTRIES, INDIA IS AT RANK 133 IN TERMS OF AVAILABILITY OF WATER. IT IS AT RANK 120 AS REGARDS THE QUALITY OF AVAILABLE WATER. 17 PER CENT OF INDIA’S POPULATION DOES NOT HAVE ACCESS TO POTABLE WATER, WHILE 80 PER CENT CHILDREN SUFFER FROM WATER-BORNE DISEASES. A TOTAL OF 44 MILLION PEOPLE HAVE ILLNESSES RELATED TO POOR WATER QUALITY. — THE WORLD WATER DEVELOPMENT REPORT, 2003.