Environment Crusader lands himself on crutches as victim to the disease he actively campaigned against

Jagatnarayan Vishwakarma, 45, who lives in Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh, has been fighting since long in order to save his people from the pollution and deadly consequences of fluorosis. He is now barely able to walk on crutches due to the severe pain in his damaged bones

Mithilesh DharMithilesh Dhar   11 Nov 2019 9:15 AM GMT

Environment Crusader lands himself on crutches as victim to the disease he actively campaigned against

"Look at my fate, saving people now I find myself struggling to stand with the crutches. My bones are weakening. I too am suffering from fluorosis," says Jagatnarayan Vishwakarma, 45, who lives in Pharipan Village in Myorpur Block in Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh.

It was upon the petition of Jagat Narayan Vishwakarma that the AIIA (All India Ayurveda Institute) had in 2018 investigated and tested the water and soil of Singrauli region and established that living in Sonbhadra-Singrauli region was potentially hazardous.

Jagat Narayan has been fighting since long in order to save his people from the pollution and its deadly consequences. He forms groups and makes people aware but now he has himself fallen prey to the serious affliction of fluorosis. The man who used to be on a run all day long is now barely able to walk on crutches due to the severe pain in his damaged bones.

He informs, "In 2001, I came to know that the water in my locality is severely contaminated. People were fast becoming handicapped; certain household even had 5-6 members suffering. Upon investigation and subsequent testing, it was revealed that the water here has an excessive amount of fluoride causing fluorosis among the people of our area. Thereafter, I raised the issue of pollution in Singrauli region and resolved to inform people about it but then I found myself a victim of the disease."

A famed doctor from Banaras Hindu University, Dr AK Das had given treatment to Jagatnarayan in the beginning. He informs, "Jagatnarayan's knees have decayed due to excessive fluoride in his body and this is called fluorosis. It cannot be operated upon so it would be difficult for Jagatnarayan to be ever able to walk without support."

Before 2001, people in the district were unaware of the fact that the water they drink is dangerously high in fluoride. It was Jagatnarayan who had helped handicapped people of Myorpur's Kushmaha Raphari in getting tested which, in turn had established the presence of fluoride and diagnosed them with fluorosis.

In 2014 Jagatnarayan took the matter to the courts of National Green Tribunal which addresses matters pertaining to the environmental protection and conservation of natural resources and forests.

Informing about his treatment he says, "After BHU, my treatment is now undergoing with Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, New Delhi. I am taking the medicines although the doctors have ruled out the possibilities of surgery and full recovery."

Excessive ingestion of fluoride through drinking water over a period of time leads to fluorosis which is a painful degenerative ailment of bones and ligaments. It manifests as tooth fluorosis, skeletal and non-skeletal fluorosis and affects men, women and children of all ages. The victim of this disease becomes disabled with impaired physical movement.

Dr AK Das says, "Fluoride should not exceed 1mg in a litre of water. If the amount of fluoride exceeds the permissible limit, it begins affecting the health of people adversely."

As per the 2012 report issued by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) after surveying Sonbhadra and Singrauli, the amount of fluoride present in the water exceeded 2mg.

Jagtnarayan has been consistently raising the issue of pollution and has even moved it to the Supreme Court. In response to his petition, in 2014 NGT had surveyed Singrauli and adjoining Sonbhadra plant. After the inspection, NGT had given strict orders to the plant authorities towards total disposal of the ashes from an environmental point of view. However, even today these companies are in defiance of the orders.

Talking about how he became a victim of fluorosis, Jagatnarain said: "In order to sensitize people, I have been to several villages. So wherever I went, I had to drink water there. I knew this was dangerous but was left with no alternative. I am full of regret now."

Jagatnarayan works for Vanvasi Sewa Ashram but he has not given up his crusade. He says, "If we suffer today it is solely due to those power plants. They spew polluted ashes and waste directly into Rihand Dam where a majority of the population of Sonbhadra-Singrauli gets its water supply from."

Jagatnarayan informs, "In 2016 Vanvasi Sewa Ashram had conducted a survey of its neighbouring villages. The survey revealed that Chaupan Block's Parwakundwari, Piparwa, Jhirgadandi; Duddhi Block's Manbasa, Kathauti, Malauli, Katauli, Jharokalan, Duddhi; Myorpur Block's Kusmaha, Govindpur, Khairahi, Rasprahari, Barwantola, Sewakadand, Khamaharaiya, Harwariya, Jhara, Nawatla, Rajmilan, Dudhar, Chetwa, Nemna and Babhni Block's Bakulia, Barbai, Ghugri and Khairadih villages have their people affected by fluorosis. Following our report, a team headed by Dr AK Pandey had been sent by UP's Health Department who had investigated the matter and informed that within Sonbhadra region 2,01,613 suffered partially. This toll is on the rise."

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