Final probe report on water contamination deaths in Karnataka’s Raichur and Koppal expected on 20 June

The state government constituted a three-member committee and ordered it to carry out a detailed investigation and submit its report by 20 June.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jun 18, 2023 | 9:34 PMUpdatedJun 19, 2023 | 4:27 PM

Karnataka Water Contamination Raichur

A three-member committee constituted to probe the deaths of four people, who reportedly consumed contaminated water, in Karnataka’s Raichur and Koppal districts, is expected to submit its investigation report on Tuesday, 20 June.

The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government set up the committee under Panchayat Raj Commissioner Priyanka Mary Francis after a review meeting chaired by the chief minister.

Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Priyank Kharge, Minister for Revenue Krishna Byre Gowda, and officials concerned attended the meeting on 13 June.

The committee was mandated to submit its report by 20 June. It visited Rekalmardi village of Devadurga taluka in Raichur and Basarihalli village of Kanakagiri taluka and Bichkal village of Kushtagi taluka in Koppal in the third week of June.

The committee conducted a detailed investigation and collected drinking water samples from all three villages and sent them for scientific tests.

“We visited all three villages and interacted with the people. The committee collected water samples and sent them to the labs,” Francis told South First, adding that the report would be submitted by 20 June.

Related: 3-year-old killed, 26 falls sick after consuming contaminated water

Deaths by water?

The first reported death was that of a three-year-old boy from Rekalmardi village in Raichur on 24 May.

Later, three people — including a nine-month-old girl —  died after reportedly consuming contaminated water in Koppal’s Kanakagiri and Kushtagi in May and June.

Honnamma Shivappa, 65, died after reportedly consuming tap water on 31 May. The second victim was the infant, Shruti L, who died on 6 June. Both were from Kanakagiri.

The third victim was Nirmala Belagal, 10, of Kushtagi taluka. She died on 8 June. Around 30 people took ill after consuming contaminated water.

Besides Francis, the panel comprised Rural Drinking Water and Sanitation Superintendent Engineer (Bengaluru Circle) Chandrahas and State Technical Advisor BR Venkatesh.

Earlier, the Raichur and Koppal district administrations had submitted their primary reports to the government.

Related: Siddaramaiah directs immediate measures after 3-year-old’s death

Koppal zilla panchayat CEO refutes charge

Koppal Zilla Panchayat CEO Rahul Rathnam Pandey refuted the charge that drinking water had killed the trio.

“The deaths of the elderly woman and the baby girl were not due to water contamination,” he told South First, adding both had other health issues.

“The woman was suffering from heart and kidney issues. She was a regular patient at the district hospital,” he said. “Even the toddler had respiratory issues. We have verified the medical reports of both victims twice and the cause of death was health issues, not because of drinking contaminated water,” Pandey added.

He held the 10-year-old girl’s grandparents for her death. “The girl also fell ill after drinking contaminated water. She died due to the negligence of her relatives. Her parents left the girl with her grandparents and left for Bengaluru where they worked as daily-wage labourers.”

“The relatives brought the girl to the hospital late. If they had brought her on time, her life could have been saved. A temporary hospital was opened next to the victim’s residence. We came to know about the illness of the girl only when Asha workers visited their residence,” he said.

“In both incidents, we found leakages in the drinking water pipelines. We recommended the suspension of the Panchayat Development Officers of both the gram panchayats and also submitted a detailed report to the government on the incident,” he said.

Also read: Reusable water bottle contains 40,000x bacteria than a toilet seat

PDO suspended

Holding the Jagir Jadaladinni Panchayat Development Officer (PDO) Renuka responsible for the death of a three-year-old boy due to water contamination, Raichur ZP CEO Shashidhar Kurer suspended her and a waterman.

Toddler Hanumanth due after drinking contaminated tap water at Rekalmardi village in Devadurga taluka on 24 May. Around 26 people complained of diarrhoea after drinking the same water.

The villagers alleged that the drinking water pipeline passing through a canal was damaged. The stagnant water in the polluted canal mixed with the drinking water and it was supplied to the village, they said.

Admitting that the water was contaminated, Kurer told South First: “Prima facie, the pipeline was damaged. The polluted water got mixed with the drinking water. The primary cause for the death of the three-year-old toddler is water contamination.”

“After the officials submitted the report, I suspended the PDO and waterman of the Jagir Jadaladinni Gram Panchayat. After the incident, we cleaned and sanitised all water tanks in the district,” he added.

“We are closely monitoring the drinking water supply as the mercury levels are hovering around 43 to 44 degrees Celsius. Of the 615 water purifier plants, 405 are functioning and 130 are not operating,” he further said.

“The members of the committee set up by the government visited the village and collected water samples. We will ensure that such incidents do not recur in the district,” he said.