The more you look into health and health inequalities, you realize that a lot of it is not due to a particular disease – it’s really linked to underlying societal issues such as poverty, inequity, lack of access to safe drinking water and housing.
The purpose of life is not only to be happy, for it is also to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. This thought is what made the young Rotaractors of KDU understand that lending a helping hand to persons affected by hard water crisis of certain communities in the dry zone of Sri Lanka would be an immense aid to provide them with potable water for a healthier living condition. It’s hard for most of us to imagine that clean, safe water is not something that can be taken for granted. And yet, there are those of us who would give anything they possess for a sip of clean drinking water.
It has become a well-known fact that one of the major causes of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology, shortly known as CKDu, is the continued intake of “hard water”. The dry zone of Sri Lanka is one of the key affected areas while the disease had been discovered in six out of the nine provinces of the country (Only the Western, Sabaragamuwa and Southern provinces are free).
This disease condition leads to a gradual destruction of renal mass resulting in a complete kidney dysfunction which results in death. The disease consists of five stages out of which symptoms are only revealed in the third stage or after. A cure or a cause for the disease had not been discovered yet.
Hard water is usually defined as water, which contains a high concentration of calcium and magnesium ions. However, hardness can be caused by several other dissolved metals; those forms divalent or multivalent cations, including aluminum, barium, strontium, iron, zinc, and manganese. Consumption of “hard water” not only causes renal dysfunction as explained above but also considered to be a significant etiological factor around the globe causing many diseases such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes, reproductive failure and neural diseases.
The only promising options for an affected individual are a kidney transplant or a periodical dialysis.
In Sri Lanka due to the prevailing socio- economic issues pertaining to lack of awareness, lack of education resulting in insufficient knowledge on contributory bad health habits subsisting in their communities, economic hardships faced by the their families since the main mode of income of the people in the affected areas is agriculture have made it difficult for the diseased persons to get access to proper treatment.
According to the research facts published in the Presidential Task Force Website for CKDu, 2015, about 2000 annual deaths and about 20000 new admissions to hospitals are reported at Government hospitals every year. Another major issue that the persons affected by adverse effects of hard water consumption is that, kidney transplants or dialysis facilities are not readily available in these areas. Patients have to travel to Kandy or Colombo hospitals for transplants and a similar distance problem exists for dialysis, which has to be performed three times a week. But more than that, they are unable to bear even minor scale travelling expenses.
Although the quality of water to be provided to these areas should be improved, there lies a barrier in obtaining suitable potable water in these rural villages.
It was these facts altogether that made our Rotaractors to look into this issue of CKDu as one of the best areas to invest the potential they carry and thus set hands on a project to provide potable drinking water to affected individuals.
Currently implemented solutions in Sri Lanka to establish a supply of good quality drinking water as one of the most important interventions for controlling the disease, include
- Setting up small R.O (Reverse Osmosis) plants,
- Bowser supply of potable water,
- Service extensions from existing pipe water supply schemes to certain areas and rain water harvesting in areas where bowser supply is uneconomical.
Accordingly, R.O plants have been set up in 3 district secretariats (DS) of Anuradhapura and one DS of Polonnaruwa. Bowser supply is also done in in areas like Kabithigollawa, Medirigiriya, Badulla, Monaragala and Dehiattakandiya.
However due to expensive technological mechanisms needed to install and maintain these R.O plants and also due to the discharge of the effluent water containing toxic elements filtered by R.O filtration process, out back into the ground water, R.O. plants are unsustainable within the current ecological and socio-economic context of dry zone farming communities.
Therefore our specific concern is to resort to the implementation of Rain Water Harvesting Plants which are more affordable and more suitable for the dry zone farming communities.
Rain water harvesting plants are advantageous in many ways over R.O plants that it can be used as a solution in seasonally drought stricken areas and rain water is substantially free of salinity and other salts as well as impurities where any traces of microbes or other dust particles are only found in the first flush, which is deliberately allowed to pass out in any rain water harvesting model and is cost effective.
No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. Thus, the project “BURN” was set in motion in order to aid the persons affected by the hard water crisis in Mahiyanganaya area, by raising funds which will be utilized to implement Rain Water Harvesting Plants by installing storage tanks capable of holding 5000 liters which can supply a household consisting of 5 persons with potable water. (Approximately 20 liters of water per day for drinking and cooking purposes.)
The first phase of the project “BURN” was successfully completed. The Rotaract Club of KDU decided to take this project onto the next level and has come to present “BURN- Phase two” The Rotaractors of KDU are currently on the go with their fullest potential and enthusiasm to make a difference for the persons affected by the hard water crisis.
None of us want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand.We can’t change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but we can do our bit together hand-in-hand.