As if adulterated food and medical products, tampered taxi meters, faulty weights and balances were not enough, milk too has now joined the contamination bandwagon. It has been confirmed that all milk brands in town contain coliform, a bacterial strain indicative of faecal contamination causing loose motion to those who consume the live pathogens. The tests have further revealed that 75 per cent of the drinking water samples examined in Kathmandu Valley were contaminated and not fit for consumption. Considering that over 4,000 people in 14 districts, including the capital city, have been affected by water-borne diseases almost a month ahead of the monsoon — a season when water-borne diseases normally unleash their full wrath — and that 27 people have succumbed to it, drinking water infested with pathogen is surely a ticking time bomb. The people from the lower income bracket who cannot afford to boil drinking water are imminently threatened.

Although the Nepal Water Supply Corporation claims to be testing over 50 different water samples every day in order to identify the contamination zones, its efforts, as has been testified, are far from satisfactory. Several sections of the Valley are reeling under water scarcity. The Corporation has not been providing safe drinking water to other areas indicates that the national water utility has a long way to go before it becomes an efficient water distributor. The problem of contamination is not new to Kathmandu. The need for the government to leave no stone unturned in supplying potable water to the public cannot be overemphasised. To drink safe water is to remain free from a range of water-borne diseases. Indeed, when the life-line itself becomes a source of illness, no explanation except safe water is acceptable. Now that another essential household commodity like the milk has also been found to be swarmed with deadly pathogens, the Department of Food, Technology and Quality Control will have to build the pressure by initiating legal action against the producers of the spurious products.

The ageing underground pipelines, which often cross path with the drains have long been declared a culprit. This, however, is no excuse to ignore the quality maintenance at the water source. Because there is a greater chance of the sources getting contaminated from run-offs like streams and unhealthy water sources during summer, extra caution is required at these points too. Proper chlorination and boiling it before consumption would minimise, if not eliminate, the risk of contracting the diseases. Also, the pressure on the producers of food stuff should also be built and sustained as a matter of routine.