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Monday, June 1, 2009

Deonar dumping ground is making children sick: survey

Nirmaya Health Foundation, an NGO, surveys 1,400 children living near the ground, and finds close to 980 suffer from chronic lung and skin diseases, 882 of them are ragpickers

A survey done by an NGO, Nirmaya Health Foundation has found that close to 70 per cent of nearly 1,400 children in Rafiq Nagar, near the Deonar dumping ground, suffer from respiratory tract infection and chronic skin diseases.
    This amounts to nearly 980 children between the age group of 2 and 14. What makes the scenario worse is that 90 per cent of this group – almost 882 – are ragpickers and are directly exposed to the toxic waste.
    "We give bottles and metal parts to local scrap dealers and get food in return," said 12-year-old Zaheed Ansari, who has been suffering from skin inflammation for the past one week.

    Zaheed and his friends, aged between 8 and 14, visit the dumping ground at least thrice a week through the broken fences.
    "Close to 70 per cent of the children we examined are suffering either from respiratory tract infection, or skin diseases such as fungal infection, or scabies, etc," said Dr Ravindra Rathod, programme officer of NHF, who practises full-time in Rafiq Nagar.
    According to the annual report of the foundation, 2,643 patients were treated in Rafiq Nagar
through their mobile van service during 2008-2009, and 716 through a dispensary run by them. "Children constituted over 50 per cent of this figure, and the numbers are on the rise," said Rathod.
    The problem is complicated with lack of proper drinking water facilities and hygiene. "You won't find water in most households, and whatever little you get is too cloudy to consume," said Chandrakant Uttekar, a field worker with NHF.
    The foundation recently tied up with Rotaract Club of Mumbai, Shivaji Park, to educate and inculcate hygiene awareness among children.
    "Our agenda is to stop these children from getting into rag picking and bring them back into the mainstream," said Alvina Panjikar, programme chairperson, Rotaract Club of Mumbai, Shivaji Park.

    The BMC on its part said it will soon be conducting a survey to get a picture of the scope of the problem.
    "I have not gone through this study, but yes, Rafiq Nagar has had several cases of ragpickers suffering from respiratory and skin diseases," said Satish Mehta, assistant municipal commissioner, M/East ward while adding that there are two health posts in Shivaji Nagar, whose doctors are constantly monitoring the problem.

Zaheed Ansari (first left), a ragpicker, says he and his friends visit the dump at least thrice a week through the broken fences

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