After a recent event where Jana Sena party chief Pawan Kalyan highlighted the huge number of cases of kidney-related diseases in the Uddanam region of Srikakulam district, the central government has now decided to act.
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, J P Nadda, announced on Monday that the Centre will send a team of specialists from the Union Health Ministry and Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) to study the cause of the disease which has been there for nearly two decades.
Nadda said the team would devise a research programme for a scientific study to find out the cause of the problem.
“If the state government wants, the Centre will set up a special dialysis centre in the Uddaanam region which can cater to the needs of the patients,” Nadda told The New Indian Express.
In the exsisting Pradhana Mantri Dialysis Yojana, dialysis centres are set up in partnership with private agencies under the PPP (public private partnership) model, where the government bears the cost of dialysis procedures of victims falling under BPL (below poverty line) category.
This came soon after Pawan paid a visit to the area and talked to several villagers. His media team even prepared a documentary on the plight of the villagers suffering from this chronic kidney disease known as Uddanam Nephropathy.
A report in The Hindu said according to AP Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Commissioner B. Ramanjaneyulu, a team of professors from Andhra University will play a key role in conducting the research to identify the root cause of the disease.
Professors of the Andhra University Geo-Physics and Geo-Engineering departments will study the contamination of water, presence of pesticides in soil and other issues.
In 2011, a group of researchers had tested and studied the drinking water sources of the villages and found "the presence of phenols and mercury in drinking water to be very high...Phenols and mercury, being very toxic in their characteristic nature, are bio-accumulative. Hence these waters are found not suitable for potable purposes."
But this could not prove that the water was the only reason for the high prevalence of chemicals.
Even in 2016, The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) along with researchers of Harvard University, Andhra Medical College, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and NTR University of Health Sciences had conducted research on the issue. Initially they foundthat “excessive levels of silica in water” could be the cause of the disease. However, the ICMR could not continue the research due to a fund crunch.
After the problem was highlighted recently by Pawan, Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu has also announced measures to look into the issue.
Naidu on Saturday announced that pension will be provided to the kidney patients in Uddanam area under the physically handicapped category.