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HW Exclusive: A Death Sip- Why 1.4 million people in Maharashtra’s Buldhana are in danger

Buldhana’s Jalgaon Jamod and Sangrampur talukas have marked a maximum number of Kidney damage cases. There is not a single household in the village where death has not knocked early.

 

“I have to spend 5-6000 per month for my husband’s treatment. He can’t work, so I have to earn for the family,” said Sharada as she pointed towards her husband Santosh. He was sitting beside her with his head down while their two kids were standing in the corner of the small brick house.

Santosh Masal’s both the kidneys have damaged and he is on dialysis. Every month the family spends 5000 to 6000 rupees on his treatment. While the treatment is available, job opportunities are not. Due to his condition, Santosh is advised to not lift the heavy object. Thus, he cannot work. Sharada, his wife is the sole bread-winner for the family.

Buldhana
Sharada Masal (L) with her husband Santosh Masal (R)

 

“Ten years ago we found out his both the kidneys have been damaged. We took treatment in Aurangabad and even in Mumbai. But nothing has helped,” Sharada said with teary eyes. For Santosh’s treatment, the family sold their 2 Acres of land. His elderly mother in 2012 had donated her one kidney to her son but Masal family’s life is not any less miserable over the years. The family says now death is the only solution.

But the Masal family is not alone. In Maharashtra’s Buldhana district you will find the same cases in almost every house. In this district, 300 people have died due to kidney-related disease while 800 are on dialysis. In this district alone, there are more than 1.4 million kidney patients.

HW News team visited the district to know the truth behind this. What we found is nothing less than shocking.

Maharashtra’s Kidney-Disease Village:

500 km away from Maharashtra’s capital Mumbai, lies Buldhana district. It houses 13 talukas. However, two talukas- Jalgaon Jamod and Sangrampur have marked a maximum number of cases of Kidney-related diseases. In these talukas with few thousands of population, there is not a single household where death has not knocked early.

Buldhana
Bodkha village in Buldhana

HW News visited two villages in Sangrampur Taluka- Bodkha and Panchal. Every single household has lost one person to this disease or has a person fighting this disease. In Bodkha, HW News met Ashok Umale. With his gaunt and wrinkled body, he couldn’t even stand up on his feet. Ashok’s mother the only bread-winner in the family of three has lost all hopes of her son recovering. “I lost my second son due to this illness. Now, he is also suffering from it. I am earning for the family at this age. But it is not enough,” Ashok’s mother said.

Buldhana
Ashok Umales old mother sitting outside their house with a photo of her deceased son

 

In the nearby lane lives 45-year old Dnyaneshwar Shende. Dnyaneshwar travels 9 times a month to adjoining district Akola to get his dialysis done. As he is unable to even get up from his bed, his two sons work as daily wage labourers to provide for the family. “My children had to leave school due to his illness,” complains his wife.

But life is not easy for Dnyaneshwar. He says the district does not have enough hospitals for the people. “There are hospitals in Buldhana but the number of hospitals is less than a number of patients. We have to take an appointment for dialysis,” He told HW News.

Buldhana
Dnyaneshwar Shende, 45 takes dialysis 9 times a month as his both kidneys are damaged

 

Not only the elderly but even kids are also suffering from Kidney ailments. While talking to people in the village, HW News came across a 6-year-old boy from Bavanbir village. His both the kidneys have been damaged. “His father is a Riksha puller and hardly manage to provide him treatment at Mumbai’s JJ hospital,” his uncle Sheikh Naseer told HW News.

These are just four cases but the number of kidney patients here is so high, that it is called a “Kidney-disease village”. Some villagers told us that people are afraid to get themselves tested fearing that they will be diagnosed with Kidney disease.

Why is Buldhana recording the maximum number of Kidney damage cases?

Apparently, the reason for this is water available in this region. The salinity level in the water is so high that makes the water non-drinkable. Moreover, the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) level is alarming. When HW News checked the TDS level in the water, the detector showed us it is more than 1400 mg/Litre. According to WHO, the ideal amount of TDS in water is less than 600 mg/Litre. If the TDS level is greater than 1200 mg/Litre, the water is regarded as unacceptable. It becomes difficult for the kidney to process and filter these solids which lead to the secretion of these solids in the kidney. This leads to kidney stone or kidney damage issues.

Buldhana
HW News tested the TDS level in the water

According to Geologists, the soil in the region is impervious so water doesn’t percolate, preventing groundwater recharge. This leads to high salinity turning the water into poison for people.

But people here have no option but to drink the water. Buldhana is one of the drought-hit districts in Maharashtra facing severe water scarcity. The government sends water tankers but the frequency is less. So the villagers have to depend on the groundwater. Between drought and poisonous water, the villagers are living a nightmare.

Buldhana
The TDS level in the water is alarmingly high

However, it is not the first time, the issue has been raised. Earlier, the govt set up RO plants (water filtration plants) near the villages. But within months of opening up, they were shut down.

The villagers are now also questioning the administration’s negligence. “We do not have a house. There’s nothing to eat, not even drinkable water. The government hasn’t helped much. They only provided medicines for my son. But how will we survive on medicines and Bhakri?” questioned Ashok’s old mother.

 

(With video contributions from Shivaji Mamankar)

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