Kidney disease and reverse osmosis to get clean water in the short term
Posted on December 22nd, 2016
Chandre Dharmawardana, Ottawa, Canada
The government, some private sector groups, and NGOs have spend a large amount of money on reverse osmosis (RO) machines for the purification of water as it was advocated by a number of people who feared that there are metal toxins (Arsenic, Cd, etc) in the water. The claim that metal toxins are found in the Rajarata environment was also politicized by a number Keleaniya university activists who invoked the word of God Natha.
They claim that the country is awash with agrochemical poisons (“wasa visha”), and that the kidney disease in the Rajarata is due to agrochemicals. That is the public perception which is contrary to the main-stream scientific and medical opinion. Ven. Rathana (JHU) is a leader of the “Vasha-Visha Naethi Ratak” program which seeks to ban all fertilizers and pesticides.
Agricultural scientists are unanimous that the best approach is to use a mixture of organic and inorganic fertilizers designed to meet the needs of each type of soil (which is full of living organisms), and that simple minded knee-jerk solutions for complex processes (like agriculture) do not exist.
They have banned glyphosate which is a herbicide that is believed to be safe by all main-stream scientists. According to the WHO-FAO, a 60 kg person can drink up to 12 tea spoons a day and yet not get sick.
(the Wikipedia article on Glyphosate claims that you can drink twice as much without getting sick! I think that is an error). No other country has banned it for agricultural use
although there are some misleading internet reports to the contrary.
No farmer drinks the stuff, even to commit suicide as it is hardly toxic and so it is not an efficient way of killing oneself! Protective clothes are not necessary as the substance is very benign even though it contains a small percentage of toxic adjuvents. Many field experiments show that when farmers use it without protective clothes, only micro-gram quantities get ingested into the body and so it is harmless because even the adjuvents are ingested at microgram quantities. There are modern formulations without toxic adjuvents.
RO machines are used mainly to clean sea water or in specialized applications. In Sri Lanka ordinary water is re-cleaned with Ro machines!; a frightened public is a good market for the RO companies. In Colombo some private homes have also invested in RO machines. Some of the NGO- charities may also be genuinely convinced that they are doing the “right thing”.
RO machines need imported parts and membranes from, say, Dow chemicals, and use electricity. A liter of water costs a farmer anything from 50 cts to one rupee. The impure part of the water from RO machines is thrown back into the environment.
When the Water Board Scientists (and also Japanese scientists, WHO-NSF scientists) analyzed the water, and water input (from rivers, irrigation canals and tanks) to the RO machines, they were found to be quite good for drinking except for the need for a simple filtration and perhaps chlorination step! So RO is not even needed in most cases.
The people with the Kidney disease live in poor “colonization villages” a bit further away from the rivers and canals; so they use their own backyard wells
(examples given in the attached pictures) which contain water that does not get adequately replenished as it is the dry zone; since the wells are away from the water table of the tanks and canals, fresh water cannot adequately reach the wells either (this was tested using isotopes added to the well water to check if the isotopes seep out to the water table). So this stagnant water dissolves a lot of geological salts, fluorides etc., and I think (and many scientists also think so), that it is this well water containing various salts of geological origin which is at fault.
So we need to give clean water to those farmers living in more remote areas, away from the good water available from the weva and irrigation canals.
The cheapest and most effective solution is to give these villagers storage tanks for collecting rain water from their roofs. This has been tried for an year in the village known as Ginnoruwa, under the effort of the late Mr. Ranjith Mulleriyawa (an agronomist) and it seems to work (i.e., one can collect enough water to last the whole year). I visited that village during 12-13 Dec this year as well, and some of the pictures provided here are from that visit.
It costs Rs. 75,000 (at most) to install a rainwater tank for a family of five, and from then on there are no costs except for minor repairs to taps etc (as the monkeys and “Rilawas” come and break the taps to drink the water!). In contrast, setting up RO plants cost about 200 times and it has continual running expenses.
The attached pictures show:
- A backyard well used by a Farmer family
- Another backyard well.
- Household rain-water tank fed from roof
- Two large rainwater collection tanks used at
the school in Ginnoruwa.
- Farmer in front of his house, drying paddy (Keeri samba)
But the government (and its “vasha-visha nathi ratak” campaign) seem to be keen on RO machines, and now they have installed quite a lot of such machines and wasted a lot of money that could have been used to provide rain water at a cost of less than one cent per liter, instead of 50cts- to one rupee per liter.
If you allow 50 liters per day for a family of 5, they need 1500 liters per month, and RO water will cost the farmer upto Rs 1500 per month. Rain water will cost the farmer Rs15. This Rs 15 is obtained by amortizing the cost of the plastic tank (Rs 75,000) over its long life period.
One of the farmers stated that he believes that his CKDu is due to a snake bite, and attacks from hornets that he had suffered in 1986. “These things happen due to divine wrath and bad Karma”. He said that well water was “Kivul” but he had been drinking it until 2016 January when his family got a donation of a tank for rain water collection. His wife has diabetes.
I have been writing about this for several years, and pointing out that the problem is not the use agrochemicals but the lack of clean water. The Sinhala press does not even publish our articles, and accuse us to be “Vash Visha kompaeni valin salli gaththu Mahaacharya varu”).
Chandre Dharmawardana, Ottawa, Canada
On Wednesday, December 21, 2016 8:28 PM, Laya Alles <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
I saw your interview on the television.
I need a little help from you.
Here is the question
How can reverse osmosis help contain th problem in the short term dn what are your views on the issue.
What are the alternatives?