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Transforming water from poisonous to purified — at no cost



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Madhusudankati (West Bengal), April 3 : Deep wounds and white patches on their skin are common among people in this tiny West Bengal speck bordering Bangladesh. The disease turned deadly for many, and the culprit was drinking water that contained arsenic — a toxic substance that can lead to chronic poisoning once it enters a human body.

Many of the 2,000 villagers living here were forced to migrate to nearby places before they tried, in vain, every attempt to rid the water of poison. The cost was high. They had to pay for every drop of purified water they would fetch from distant towns or cities.

But life started changing for them two years ago when Sulabh International Social Service Organisation (SISSO), in collaboration with a French company, 1001 Fontaines, installed a Rs 20-lakh pond-based water treatment plant in this village of North 24 Parganas district.

Gopal Krishna Das, 56, was one of the hundreds of victims with deep white wounds and shinny patches on their skin.

“We have seen the worst. Not just diseases, arsenic has even claimed the lives of our people, especially when we didn’t know what this exactly meant. The water from the treatment plant… has given us a new hope,” Das told IANS.

Now, every villager in Madhusudankati gets purified water for free. But those from other nearby villages — Teghoria, Bishnupur and Faridkati — pay 50 paise for a litre and Rs 11 for a jar of 20 litres. The money collected is used to pay salaries to local employees for maintenance of the plant.

Brindeshwar Pathak, 74, the founder of SISSO, said the entire problem of arsenic-contaminated water was widespread in the state and could be solved if the West Bengal government took interest and replicated the model.

“The uniqueness of this project is that the water from the plant is affordable. The ‘Sulabh Jal’ project converts contaminated pond water into safe drinking water and can be sold at only 50 paise per litre in villages and nearby cities along the Bangladesh border,” Pathak told IANS, adding that they could afford 20 more similar projects in other parts of the country.

According to SISSO, the water from ponds or rivers is pumped into an overhead reservoir. It is then collected in a tank where a chemical, alum, is mixed at a desired rate.

The settled water is then passed through a slow sand filter, before being collected in a clear water reservoir. The water is then passed through activated carbon filters and membranes of varying sizes.

“This removes the finest contaminants from the water which will be treated with UV rays to make it totally bacteria free. The resultant treated water, which is free from all pathogenic micro-organisms, is then poured into 20-litre bottles and sealed. The consumers either collect the bottles from the kiosk or it is delivered to their houses,” said Pathak.

SISSO has initiated similar projects in four other parts of West Bengal — Suvasgram, Bangaon, Murshidaba and West Medinipur. All the plants are maintained by village-level committees, who have also employed locals for the maintenance and home delivery of water bottles up to a radius of 15 km on e-rickshaws.

Dilip Sarkar, a veterinarian who developed skin cancer due to arsenic water, said villagers earlier used to buy water bottles from the nearby town. The cost was high and travelling daily was tiresome.

“We tried several measures earlier to get purified water from towns which had helped in the reduction of skin diseases,” Sarkar told IANS, recollecting how many in the villages who were unable to travel daily and buy water caught the diseases.

“With the discontinuity in the intake of filtered water, the skin diseases relapsed,” he said, showing his wounds that “are getting better now”.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), arsenic is a natural component of the earth’s crust and is widely distributed throughout the environment — in air, water and land. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form.

Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic, mainly by drinking contaminated water, eating food grown or even prepared with this water, can cause skin lesions and cancer.

WHO says inorganic arsenic is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater of a number of countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, India, Mexico, and the United States.

By Rupesh Dutta

(Rupesh Dutta was in Madhusudankati at the invitation of Sulabh International and can be contacted at [email protected])



Lap-band surgery may lower chronic knee pain



chronic knee pain

New York, March 20: Obese people who have a band surgically strapped around their stomach to restrict food intake not only lose weight but will also suffer less from arthritic knee pain, a new study suggests.

According to researchers, the pain proceeds from the deterioration and related inflammation in knee joints caused in part by the extra weight they bear.

While the pain relief seen with lap-band surgery applied to all patients with osteoarthritic knees, researchers found that it was most helpful in the young men and women who lost the most weight.

“Our study shows that extremely obese people seeking relief from their knee pain should consider lap-band surgery earlier because the benefits from it being successful — although significant for all ages — decrease with age,” said co-author Jonathan Samuels, Associate Professor at NYU School of Medicine.

For the study, published in the journal Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, researchers examined 120 patients who underwent lap-band surgery between 2002 and 2015.

All were surveyed for what they remembered about their knee pain immediately before surgery, a year after their procedure, and for as long as 14 years later.

The main purpose of the survey was to find out why some extremely obese people showed more knee pain relief from lap-band surgery than others.

According to the survey results, men and women in their 40s experienced post-surgical knee pain reductions after one year of between 50 and 60 percent; while those in their 50s, one year later, had pain reductions between 30 and 40 percent; and those in their 60s, had reductions between 20 percent and 30 percent.

Pain relief persisted for a decade in all patients monitored.

People with BMIs in the upper 40s were just as likely to report decreased knee pain as people with BMIs in the lower 40s if they lost proportionally the same amount of total body weight.


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Healthy office spaces promote healthy lifestyles




New Delhi, March 20: Managed and serviced co-working spaces go an extra step to promote a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that employees who work in a healthy environment usually enjoy good well-being, increased productivity and a positive outlook towards the company.

Creating a perfect office set-up and turning it into an ideal workplace environment usually involves astronomical costs. From paying office rent to office furnishings, insurances, equipment and money invested in health and hygiene, the cost is mostly high.

Puneet Chandra, Founder & CEO of Skootr, a managed office solution provider, lists the five musts for creating the ideal office space.

* Maintaining hygiene: None of the healthy measures taken into consideration will be effective if the workstation itself is host to illnesses and lacks basic sanitation. There are numerous people who get satisfaction from a clean environment. An absolutely clean and a hygienic toilet with the smell of fresh lemon is on everyone’s wish list. A hygienic washroom boosts the morale of office employees and helps in increasing their productivity.

* Seeding plants: Numerous scientific studies have established the advantages — both physical and psychological — of having plants inside the office. Moreover, with pollution levels rising above the danger zone, seeding indoor plants in an office will contribute towards fresher air and a cleaner environment. It is also highly cost-effective compared to indoor air purifiers: A significant aspect for any cost-conscious business owner.

* Pantry services: Clean, healthy and hygienic food leads to happy and efficient employees. Hence, pantry services form an important ingredient of a healthy work environment. Industry experts say 70 percent to 90 percent of healthcare spending can be saved by excluding unhealthy lifestyle choices, one of the major reasons for chronic lifestyle diseases. Co-working and managed office space providers are opting for pantry service wherein snacking becomes a healthy break-time instead of employees depending on junk food from roadside shops and street food vendors.

* Bright interiors, comfortable furniture: A specially-designed office ensures innovation among employees. According to psychoanalysts, mental and physical health is majorly dependent on the physical work environment. Hence, managed and co-working spaces these days prefer bright coloured furniture along with peppy interiors. Such colours make employees more productive and help them stay active throughout the day. Comfortable ergonomic furniture has also proven to alleviate stress in employees, hence promoting a positive work environment. Interactive work desks are also a new concept offered by co-working office providers, which not only encourages interaction but can also change height and position according to the comfort postures of employees.

* Gyms for strong work life: Various studies have claimed a solid connection between the amount of time people spend in sitting and thereafter the increased chances of diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Hence, co-working and managed office spaces are providing office gyms for employees to maintain energy, enthusiasm and positivity — while helping an individual become healthier and fitter.


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World Sleep Day: Over 60% Indians feel sleep is not a priority, finds Survey



world sleep day

New Delhi, March 16: Over 60 per cent of Indians feel exercise is the top factor impacting health and well-being more than sleep, finds a survey that highlighted the need for good sleep for better health.

The survey, led by Philips India, showed that 19 per cent of Indian adults account overlapping work hours with normal sleep time (shift work sleep disorder) as a key barrier to sleep.

According to another 32 per cent, technology is a major sleep distractor.

While 45 per cent adults have tried mediation to initiate and maintain good sleep, 24 per cent reported having tried specialised bedding.

“Sleep disorder is a much more serious issue than what most people understand, especially given their direct correlation with other serious conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke etc,” Harish R, Head (Sleep and Respiratory Care) at Philips, said in a statement.

“In a country where snoring is traditionally associated with sound sleep, it is extremely challenging to make people aware that it is a sign of a serious sleep disorder,” he added.

The findings will provide directions to raise awareness and innovate interventions to ensure an important but oft-neglected aspect of health and wellbeing: sleep health.

The survey was based on Philips annual global survey conducted with over 15,000 adults across 13 countries — India, the US, the UK, Germany, Poland, France, China, Australia, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Japan.


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