Too clean to consume

Will Kathmandu residents ever get to drink clean water? A couple of months ago, THT reported on the unusually high level of chlorine, a cheap and convenient disinfectant in optimal amount, in piped water in Kathmandu. Now, a survey of NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation has found that 47 per cent of samples of drinking water collected from around the Valley contained no trace of chlorine. World Health Organisation recommends 0.2mg to 0.5mg Free Residual Chlorine per litre of water. Less than that, the chlorine has no effect. More, and the risk of dangerous diseases like colon cancer mounts.

It may not be farfetched to link the lack of chlorination of drinking water with the increasing number of water-borne diseases in the Valley. The Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL), the sole distributor of drinking water in the Valley, attributes the deficiency of chlorine in tap water to leeching of the time-worn pipes. KUKL has even advised consumers to chlorinate, boil or filter piped water at home to make it safe. The responsibility for distribution of water was handed over to KUKL with the expectation of better service, but so far, nothing good has come. Irrespective of whether KUKL has long-term strategies to tackle the problem, it cannot, on any pretext, shirk from its responsibility and justify the harm to the health of common people. Some things cannot wait.