Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology, (CKDUE) is a huge problem in the North Central Province but also to a lesser degree in the North Western Province and Uva Province as well. There are various studies being carried out by both state and non state sectors to find the cause of this as it is a debilitating disease that leads to kidney failure and death, and the a long list of people requiring dialysis and kidney transplants, which the state cannot currently cope with due to the lack of resources in the health sector to meet the needs of the suffering patients. It is a pathetic situation which innocent civilians are confronted with and to which they see no solution in sight.
Into this issue the University of Kelaniya team pounced on the Arsenic story, with prominence scaring the unsuspecting public. They were very clear that this is a result of the pesticides and weedicides being used by the farmers over a prolonged period of time. Arsenic in Pesticides is illegal and is banned, but they maintain that this along with traces of Mercury as well as other poisonous elements are present in these products. It is not up to us the casual observer to comment on but the government to issue a definitive statement on the facts. I understand that a resolution as to the real cause of the problem is still to be made, even though the Kelaniya team are absolutely certain that this is a case of Arsenic poisoning, as they have backed up their evidence by supporting evidence of patients in areas such as Padaviya, with Arsenic poisoning signs.
One must also look into the other aspects such as fluoride that naturally occurs in the area, and over ingestion of fluoride can also be harmful to the health as it is with the other elements such as Zinc and Cadmium that are are blamed in combination with Arsenic and Mercury. All this must sound gobbledygook to the local villager who does not even have access to science teaching in those schools to know what it is that is causing this. So whatever the newspaper reports as the likely cause is the one used by them in the conversations we have in this regard.
It is important that studies that have commenced over 5 years ago come to some sort of conclusion as without it we do not know what corrective action is to be taken immediately to prevent the problem getting out of control.
At present the football is being kicked around between, the ITI, Kelaniya experts, the government labs and the Customs, and the Department of Agriculture with occasional help from the debates in Parliament in this regard. It does not bode well for a proper unbiased inspection of the facts as all these factions seem to have agendas, and it is possible that no one wishes to confront the truth that may be unpalatable.
So let me add my two cents too. I have lived a while in this troublesome area. I take the water I drink from my farm in Godagama, where I cannot prove but believe the spring water is safe from all this as the area contains many bottling plants that produce SLS standard bottled water for sale all over the island. I also think that overuse of Pesticides and Weedicides, as well as Chemical Fertilizer, has fouled up the local groundwater supply and all the drinking water sources that when compared with naturally occurring chemicals such as Fluoride, and the use of Aluminium cooking utensils, that lie unwashed or are used as water containers allow a certain unhealthy proportion of Aluminium to leach into the drinking water supply.
A combination of a cocktail mix of all these seem to lead in some cases to these diseases. It is time that all diseases are investigated for causes relating to the water supply, as this appears to be the most likely source of contamination. It is also noteworthy that there are many other places that use as much or more fertilizer and pesticides per acre in the Island that does not have this kidney disease leading one to automatically assume that there are other factors as well that are the root causes.
I am no expert, and there are numerous experts and projects currently being undertaken to find the true cause of this disease, and I can only hope without further delay, that some rational solution can be found, and hitherto the Kelaniya University seem to get undue publicity leading to alarmist rumors that are very harmful to agriculture, consumption of our local produce and also to the medical profession. While they may be forceful and convinced in the correctness of their argument, they have not been able to do a good job to convince the majority of doubters of this fact.. We must therefore be careful in the evaluation process, to come up with the likely cause along with the probability of this disease occurring.
Lets not just on the case of the Multinationals just yet until we have an alternative practical solution to addressing this issue and not make it a knee jerk one on order to satisfy short term agendas.