Chronic Kidney Disease Plagues Rural Odisha, but Why?
G Dhamma Rao has been battling chronic kidney disease for a few years
G Dhamma Rao has been battling chronic kidney disease for a few years(Photo Courtesy: Basudev Mahapatra)

Chronic Kidney Disease Plagues Rural Odisha, but Why?

At 47, G Dharma Rao of Badaputi village in Chhatrapur block of Odisha’s Ganjam district suddenly finds himself becoming a burden on his family. He was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) two years ago.

Dharma is now unable to do any work and is undergoing dialysis in a Bhubaneswar hospital twice a week.

“We have already spent over 5 lakh rupees for his treatment by taking hand loans from relatives and others at an interest of 2 percent/month,” said G Aimma (42), Dharma’s wife.

The treatment is costly and people in the village have been succumbing to the disease despite medical help.

Epidemic-Like Situation

S Shantamma lost her husband to kidney disease.
S Shantamma lost her husband to kidney disease.
(Photo Courtesy: Basudev Mahapatra)

With chronic kidney disease progressing like an epidemic in Badaputi and nearby villages, there are hundreds of women like Ghima, who are either taking care of those taken ill or have lost their family members to the disease, and are left with a crippling financial burden.

S Santamma (50) and P Savitri (45) lost their husbands to renal failure last year. Thirty-five-year-old G Kasturi is struggling to continue the treatment of her husband, G Krushna Rao, who suffers from multiple ailments like kidney stone, lever malfunctioning and tuberculosis in the brain.

We have spent nearly seven lakh rupees on treatment of my husband by taking loans at a monthly interest of 3 percent.
G Kasturi

Kasturi sent her daughter to work in a medical company in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh to help support the family with whatever meagre amount she earns.

In Badaputi alone, around 100 people were detected with kidney disease and are undergoing treatment and, in three years, over 40 people have died of renal failure.
Gurudev Behera, Local Activist

Total population of Badaputi is somewhere around 3,000.

The women from Baginipeta Village share their stories of loss due to Chronic Kidney Disease
The women from Baginipeta Village share their stories of loss due to Chronic Kidney Disease
(Photo Courtesy: Basudev Mahapatra)

With the disease affecting people from at least seven villages of three gram panchayats of Kalipalli, Kanamona and Aryapalli, over 200 people from the area are undergoing treatment for chronic kidney disease, while nearly 70 people have died of it in the last three years, he says.

All six members of the family of Gaurang Sahu of the P Laxmipur village died in last four years. “G Apanna of the village committed suicide as he was diagnosed with CKD. With about 15 people already diagnosed with CKD, many are now afraid to go for medical tests fearing trace of CKD and the financial misery following the diagnosis,”

According to Prof Saroj Kumar Panda, consulting nephrologist at Brahmapur-based MKCG Medical College Hospital:

The disease has been seen among people in this locality since the last 7-8 years. But the disease has progressed mush faster over the last 3-4 years. Most patients come for a diagnostic test at a later stage of kidney disorder, i.e. only when they see unusual symptoms in their body.

No Concrete Reason Why Kidney Disease is on the Rise

“Higher incidence of the disease could be due to the presence of toxic and heavy metal in water and food,” says Prof Panda

These villages are located close to India’s Department of Atomic Energy controlled Indian Rare Earth Limited (IREL) and its monazite processing plant. Villagers blame IREL for their woes.

Piles of waste dumped is polluting the surface as well as groundwater and causing the disease.
A Venkat, Local Activist
Badaputi village has several residents who’ve been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease
Badaputi village has several residents who’ve been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease
(Photo Courtesy: Basudev Mahapatra)

But IREL says their claims are not supported by and evidence or reports of tests done so far. An expert committee report based on the test of samples conducted at Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) Central Laboratory, Bhubaneswar, observed that “water quality of the (IREL) periphery area is within the norm and the cause of Kidney disease may not be due to water.”

The December 2017 report, however, recommends a detailed study by NEERI, Nagpur, or National Geo-Physical Research Institute, Hyderabad, to establish the cause of the kidney disease in the area.

A 2015 report based on tests by state public health laboratory also certified that the “water is bacteriologically satisfactory for portability as per the specifications of Indian standard of drinking water under IS 10500:91,” while recommending for high level investigation to delineate the causal relationship.

When approached for a response on the public health issue, Prem Chandra Chaudhary, the Ganjam District Collector, said that “the earlier tests were based on eight parameters. The district administration has planned for a detailed test of water samples on 108 parameters. This may happen sooner within a month.”

“We also plan to supply drinking water sourced from a safe distance to the affected villages,” he added.

Immediate Priorities

“Since it is a public health issue that has already taken over 70 lives and nearly 200 are still suffering, the government shouldn’t wait till the report of the planned expert study comes. It needs to act on an urgent basis and conduct specialised health camps regularly for early detection of kidney disease and provide facilities for treatment of the kidney patients including dialysis,” says the Citizen’s Inquiry Report presented by a team comprising social activists and scientists.

Even as the report was being written, on 22 January 2018, Laxmi Amma (35) of Baginipetta and T Arjun (38) of Badaputi village succumbed to the chronic kidney disease.

“There is no time to spare as people keep dying. It’s the duty of the State to save lives of people first,” insisted Prafulla Samantara, the Goldman Environmental Prize winner activist who has started a campaign for health safety of the villagers suffering from chronic kidney disease.

(Basudev Mahapatra is the Former Editor-in-Chief of Naxatra News. He tweets at @BasudevNews )

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