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Spread of rat fever causes panic at Laloor

By T. Ramavarman


A view of the waste treatment plant at Laloor that is allegedly the cause of the recent outbreak of rat fever.

THRISSUR JULY 16. Reports of the spread of rat fever (Weil's disease) at the Thrissur Corporation's waste dumping area of Laloor has created a panic among residents there who are already frustrated over the dismal performance of the waste treatment facility set up with much fanfare by the Corporation. According to the Corporation Councillor of the area, M.N. Sudhakaran, one person from Laloor who had been admitted to a hospital with fever had been diagnosed as suffering from rat fever while several others in the area are also suffering from fever.

Prof. Sudhakaran gave the name of the person as Jose, 35. There are also reports that another person from the area has been admitted with similar symptoms to the Elite Mission Hospital in the city. Tests are being carried out to find out whether he was also suffering from the Weil's disease.

Pointing out that three persons from the area had died last year due to rat fever, Prof. Sudhakaran said urgent steps must be taken by the Corporation to ensure that such tragedies do not recur in Laloor which has a concentration of people from the lower strata

Ineffective plant

Meanwhile, the waste treatment plant set up by the Corporation at Laloor in April is reportedly proving to be a mere drain on the resources of the Corporation.

The Action Council Against the Pollution of Laloor (ACAPL) which had been spearheading the agitation of the people of the area against the dumping of the untreated urban waste there, has in fact given a petition to the State Human Rights Commission to order closure of the plant. According to the leaders of the ACAPL, the plant has only aggravated the problem of atmospheric and water pollution in Laloor area.

As was predicted by its critics, the machinery of the plant which has been purchased from the Orgaver company of Germany has proved capable of only converting a limited quantity of waste into organic manure. The imported machinery is used to cut the organic waste into smaller sizes and this was expected to reduce the number of days required for conversion of the waste into manure as well as the space required for storing the dissected waste during the transformation process. During the dissection process the machine increases the temperature of the waste and this was also expected to hasten the conversion of the waste into manure.

The person in charge of the plant told The Hindu that the machine was able to convert the waste into manure within 30 to 45 days, and it also reduced the space required for storing the waste drastically. But he also conceded that this technology was a simple one and could have been developed locally very easily. Also, the waste has to be segregated manually before being fed into the machine.

The Corporation does not have any idea what to do with the non-decomposable portion of the urban waste, which cannot be fed into the Orgaver machine. As per the present estimates, about 50 per cent of the total waste is non-degradable and the present plan of the Corporation is to continue dumping it at Laloor.

Similarly, the capacity of the plant is only to process about eight tonnes per day whereas the total waste generated by the Corporation is about 35 tonnes. The Corporation has plans to import two more Orgaver machines, but even after that the capacity of the plant will go up only to 24 tonnes. This would leave about 11 tonnes of waste unprocessed. Added to this would be the non-decomposable waste rejected by the machines.

According to reports, polluted water had started seeping out of the plant. The drains from the plant are also reportedly polluted. The people of the area complain that foul smell was emitted from the plant during the stirring process of the dissected waste.

The State Pollution Control Board had reportedly directed the Corporation to rectify these lapses. But the Corporation office-bearers appear to be unaffected neither by the reports of the health problems from Laloor nor by the mounting protests there. Their single-point solution seems to be importing two more Orgaver plants for Laloor, and this has triggered allegations of the involvement of kick-backs in the deal.

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