Effect of Reverse Osmosis (RO) technique as an immediate and urgent preventive measure for deadly CKDu and reason why some oppose it using in CKDu affected areas in Sri Lanka to purify water
Posted on December 24th, 2016

Eng Harsha Kumar Suriyaarachchi (Former Vice chairman of NWSDB, Former General Manager of Water Resources Board)

I am sure the readership here is well aware of the severity of the CKDu epidemic in SriLanka. Some say tens of thousands of people in Rajarata have already perished due to CKDu and hundreds of thousands of people are becoming victims. Recently His Excellency the President informed that there are about 400,000 people affected in North Central Region.

The epidemic is recorded from the early nineties or late eighties. Twenty-five years to today Science and scientists have failed to identify the cause for CKDu, in spite of numerous workshops and seminars held in Five Star Hotels and Billions of Rs spent on research.

Rajarata had been our agricultural hub for thousands of years and people lived there with same soil and same water, no CKDu was reported until recently, until such time the agrochemicals were introduced in sizable scale. Since scientists, in general, failed to live up to their boasted state of being scientists and failed to identify the cause for twenty-five years, some logical reasoning from public and involved professionals justifies the application of agrochemicals as the main contributor to CKDu.

In the light of no scientific proof is available so far on the contrary, it is the duty of everybody to adopt whatever possible means to protect people from deadly CKDu by keeping agrochemical residues away from food and water that is consumed, even temporarily, but immediately and urgently, without sticking to hairsplitting arguments anymore as such has been there for twenty-five years already.

SriLankan Soils does not originally carry Arsenic or Cadmium, but researchers have found the presence of such in water, food, agro fields and in the human body. Where have those come from, if not through agrochemicals? There can be valid reasons for science and scientific fraternity for failing for more than two decades to find solutions to CKDu, but none is valid for suffering families in Rajarata and elsewhere.

Two main streams that bring agrochemical residues into the human body are drinking water and food. Successive governments, though grossly inadequately, have taken two steps as preventive measures.

Those are, to give purified water to people through RO technology and to stop agrochemicals being added to soil and water. RO technology specifically removes residues of agrochemicals.

Amidst many lobbies, a group who are being funded by agrochemical companies do oppose both above moves heavily. Because if due to these two moves immediately and in the long run when CKDu is retarded and perished from the country, that will be a huge blow to agrochemical businesses. Srilanka is a tiny market, but the lesson learned from this tiny place would spread like a wildfire to rest of the world.

Unscrupulous beneficiaries of agrochemical industry thereby, go all out (or come here all out) to mislead the public; discourage the governments and to demean professionals and social groups who carry out the noble work. Nobody is a scientist or a professional if he purposefully hides his knowledge and spreads knowingly wrong misleading facts in the public.

Once if and for sure SriLanka proves that the absence of agrochemicals ceases CKDu, the world will grasp it overwhelmingly and step into a new era of agriculture, a new agricultural revolution that makes it as sustainable as what we had in Rajarata for thousands of years would be reawakened. Agrochemical businesses are well aware of this and tries at their best to sabotage the “RO water purification” and “Wasa Wisa Nethi Ratak” programs.

With that background let us discuss RO water treatment method that was introduced four years ago to CKDu affected area as an immediate, urgent preventive measure to effectively clean water that would protect people from being victims of CKDu.

Before that, let me inform the readership that after mere four years of presence of RO-treated water in CKDu epidemic area, doctors say that they notice a reduction in CKDu patients in their wards. Also some doctors who are full-time acting on CKDu prevention have realized that people get cured merely by drinking RO water if they are in CKDu stage 1 or 2, whereas if they are in stage 3 and above they take much longer time than usual to worsen their stage, meaning RO water is fighting against CKDu that is already in human body.

Agrochemical lobby fears this result. Because it will strongly opine that agrochemical as the culprit for CKDu.

RO is a membrane treatment method which sieves out almost all the impurities from water. Arsenic(As), Cadmium(cd), other heavy metals, hardness,  Glyphosate residues, agrochemical residues, Fluoride(Fl), Viruses, Bacteria, and algae are among many others that are removed from contaminated water through RO purification method. RO membranes have sieves that are only large enough for water molecules to pass. All the bigger molecules and complexes retain making produced water free of contaminants.

Consequently, RO water is soft and it virtually has very few solids dissolved (low TDS). This softness tends to pull solids from surrounding, perhaps making it a means of removing already accumulated As, Cd and Glyphosate etc from the human body. (I only presume, as I am no professional in human body chemistry). However, it has shown results. Further, RO water does not carry pollutants to the human body, making water safe in the CKDu epidemic areas.

We hear some making statements like; RO is expensive; RO water is lacking in minerals; water that is discarded through the RO process is polluted and making severe environmental hazards. Let me show the misconception of those statements.

The system of RO being used in CKDu areas providing drinking and cooking water are not for individual households but units catering for villages. If the government intervenes, such unit sufficient for 1000 families would cost less than one million Rs, that is 1000 Rs for a family. A well managed RO plant produces water at twenty-five cents a liter. Therefor RO is the cheapest effective water treatment method available for CKDu affected areas.

A different writer in his article “Kidney disease and reverse osmosis to get clean water in the short term” (Posted on December 22nd, 2016), who despite being well aware of the facts, had written making a misleading comparison. He says rainwater collection costs 75,000 Rs a family, Then continues saying setting up RO plants cost about 200 times”! Is one thousand Rs a family for RO setting up is 200 times the seventy-five thousand Rs a family? That writer knowingly and purposefully makes these misleading statements.

The same writer has also said that a 60 kg person can drink up to 12 teaspoons of glyphosate a day and yet not get sick!! This writer knows very well that it is not. Even I have shown him the UN report of IARC earlier, (International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO body) In their 2015 March report it says following about glyphosate,

The IARC Working Group that conducted the evaluation considered the significant findings from the US EPA report and several more recent positive results in concluding that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Glyphosate also caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, although it gave negative results in tests using bacteria. One study in community residents reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) after glyphosate formulations were sprayed nearby.”

The report says glyphosate causes DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells and also says that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.

(Please refer:”IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides” of 20 March 2015.)

The said writer knowing very well and even having discussed above WHO – IARC report before in different forums, come to public and says glyphosate is safe to drink. Is not this a criminal offense?

Why do some so called scientists do such acts so detrimental to society?  They do not mind people being killed by agrochemicals, they want to protect agrochemicals.

Coming back to RO treatment, is low mineral content in RO water a matter that should be of concern in Sri Lanka’s CKDu affected areas. Let me cite, Prof C.S. Weerarathna who points out that very majority of minerals is sufficiently absorbed by the body through means other than water, except Lithium.

Leave alone that apart, but look into our eating and drinking habits. We drink teas, in the rural, all other herbs such as Polpala, Beli Mal, Ranawara and so on. Use RO water to make tea and herbal drinks, it will bring more than enough minerals to body. Also look at our cooking where we boil vegetables and keep a liquid curry, which in the process become mineral rich. Additionally, if still required, you can easily add minerals to RO water, which I do not recommend as already victimized CKDu patients get cured due to low TDS RO water.

Another aspect some seem worried is discarded water through RO machines. The RO machines in use in CKDu affected areas uses an equal amount of water as much as purified water to clean the pollutants that were available in the purified water. Therefore it doubles the impurities in washed out water. Yet, it is already found that in general, that water in CKDu affected areas carry low amounts of impurities in such a scale even doubling it keeps the water within the safe SLS. Also, the total discarded water from an RO plant in CKDu affected area is insignificant compared to the water body in the locality.

It is important not to get confused with the agrochemical claim that since water carries low doses it cannot be causing CKDu. Water carries low doses in general or most of the time, but time to time especially when agrochemicals are applied in the field, water can be carrying significant amounts of dangerous elements, which makes people vulnerable to taking heavy doses (in addition to slowly accumulate As, Cd and other CKDu causatives over the length of time). It is totally impossible to check all the wells and surface runoff all the time continuously to see whether and when As or other CKDu causatives are present in the water that is ultimately consumed. But it is quite possible, thanks to RO treatment, to be sure that each drop of water that is consumed is free of As and other CKDu causatives. This is an aspect many find it difficult to grasp.

Coming back to, disposing of reject water of RO machines, therefore, is not an environmental issue.(we are talking about RO machines used in CKDu affected areas in Sri Lanka, and should not get confused either with desalination RO plants where the water always carries very large amount of impurities or with very large RO plants that provide municipality water in some countries where large amount of impurities getting collected in one place).

Water coming to RO machines are polluted but very much diluted (maybe 100 times in general) on the way from the agrochemical sprayed fields to the well. Ironically, the people who appear very worried about doubling the so diluted pollution and in considerably small quantities are not at all worried about dumping 100 times or more pollution in large quantities to water when agrochemicals are used. That is the pollution that ultimately reaches the RO machines and purified for the benefit of the people who drink that water and protect them from CKDu.

One writer who has come from abroad spreading misleading and wrong facts also has said that rainwater harvesting has being tried in some place for one year and hoping to find what it would result. He does not know that respectable NGO’s like Rain Water Harvesting Forum has been promoting rainwater harvesting for more than a decade. They have completed may be more than a thousand households. Their agony would have been the heavy initial capital cost per household and construction difficulties.

Over the last four years, despite improper planning by relevant government bodies, there are several hundreds of thousands of families that are given access to clean water free of any suspicious CKDu causatives, through RO machines. Thanks to RO’s lowest capital cost plus easy and quick installation.

To summarize RO machines are the cheapest water purification solution applicable to CKDu affected areas and have no health issues or environmental issues. RO machines can be installed very quickly, for example, to completely cover the remaining CKDu affected area, would need anything between three to six months, if agencies plan it properly.

The introduction of RO machines in the CKDu affected areas to purify water should, therefore, be supported and promoted by everybody who is keen in relieving the innocent people in the dry zone from deadly CKDu epidemic.

We must also appreciate the work of the group who brings about Wasa Wisa Nethi Ratak”, a brave and unique approach (in the whole world) to eradicate CKDu completely from Sri Lanka.

Thank you

Written by

Eng Harsha Kumar Suriyaarachchi

(Former Vice chairman of NWSDB, Former General Manager of Water Resources Board)

5 Responses to “Effect of Reverse Osmosis (RO) technique as an immediate and urgent preventive measure for deadly CKDu and reason why some oppose it using in CKDu affected areas in Sri Lanka to purify water”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    I thank thr author for writing this valuable article.

    I fully endorse Reverse Osmosis filtration of water both on the scale of the public water supply, as well as on the scale of individual homes using inexpensive under and over the counter units.

    Where I live in Northern California, the city water is safe enough to drink without further treatment, but I have installed RO and carbon absorption systems for all the water we use at home, especially for drinking, cooking and body washing.

    While public Reverse Osmosis systems should be mandatory, I would also advise individuals to install small RO systems at home in areas where CKDU is prevalent. The government, and even suppliers of consumer RO systems, should take the initiative to evaluate, select, purchase in bulk, educate consumers and distribute at a small profit, affordable home RO systems and the replacement filter modules to homeowners.

  2. Cerberus Says:

    I think some research as to be done on the combination of Glyphosate with heavy metals such as Cd, Zn, Se. I am not an expert on the subject but I remember reading that Glyphosate has a chelating action with heavy metals and then when it goes to the kidneys the chelated compounds breakdown leaving heavy metals in the kidneys causing breakdown of kidneys. The introduction of Glyphosate is new and its actions in relation to soils with heavy metals should be studied.

    The RO filters are not cheap. A far cheaper way to get clean water is by rain rainwater harvesting. It would be simple to set these up in each house in the villages to provide clean water.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    We agree with the facts stated in Harsha Suriyaarachchi’s article re the need for RO systems to obtain clean water, and thank him for publishing the facts.


    More facts :

    * Glyphosate kills off human gut flora in the same manner that substance kills off weeds. Gut flora has to be replaced regularly with products such as curd, yoghurt, kefir etc. to mitigate Glyphosate side effects.

    * Japanese rice farmers wear galoshes & gloves when working in the rice fields to prevent absorbtion of unwanted chemicals through the skin.

    * The RO system and Rain Water collection ought to be applied to provide clean water for household uses. RO system can be used when Rain Water is not available.

    In simllar approaches, there are areas in USA that use Solar & Wind Energy alternately, depending on which factor is available at any given time. Or use and store (as far as is possible), when both sources are available.

  4. stanleyw Says:

    I fully agrree with Harasha that good quality water need to provided to those affected by CKDU and also to those in the affected areas. Water in deep wells in these areas contain elements/compounds which may cause CKDu. Nephrotoxic elements such as cadmium is present in rocks and hence in the the water in these areas. One of the effective ways to supply good quality water is use of RO.

  5. S.Gonsal Says:

    – Dec 25, 2016

    “Mey thambiya monawada yako mehe karanne?”

    This incident took place when Mahinda Rajapaksa was the president. Those days, he used to visit countries that were not known much by the public. He received invitations from countries such as Belarus, Swaziland and Uganda. Mahinda had been eagerly waiting to see from which country he would receive the next invitation.

    Soon after receiving the invitation, he used to get all his stooges and visit those countries in the style of the southerners visiting the homes of their relatives. In the meantime, there used to be a group that would find out ahead which country Mahinda would go to next, get a booking in the same flight or a previous flight and book hotels at their own expense and try to show that they were accompanying the country’s president.

    What they used to do was to go ahead of Mahinda, make an appearance at the airport or the hotel lobby when he arrives and show their faces to him. A well known Muslim businessman who suffered from this illness once got to know that Mahinda was to go to Uganda. He spent out of his own pocket and went there ahead of Mahinda. He waited for hours at Entebbe airport, which is even less busy than Katunayake. Therefore, he got the opportunity to meet Mahinda face to face. Going in front of him and making a very low bow, he greeted him, ‘Good afternoon, Your Excellency!’ Mahinda turned to him and was taken by much surprise. He was so surprised that he uttered for even all his bodyguards to hear, “Ammata hudu, mey thambiya monawada yako mehe karanne? (What this Muslim man is doing here?)”. He kept looking at him for around a minute. His MSD men told him, “Sir, he is our man.” He said, “That is correct, Yakko. But, what is he doing here? I can understand if it was London or New York. But, this is Uganda.”

    It was only later that Mahinda came to know that the man had spent his own money to go to Uganda to show his face to him in order to get a water project approved. Those around Mahinda had planned accordingly.

    That is how Jeffergy Brothers in Sri Lanka received the contract for the ‘Visal Dambulla’ project to supply water from Ibbankatuwa reservoir to Kantale. The pipeline had been laid on six different occasions, but not a drop of water had been diverted. But, Rs. 600 million had gone missing. Anyhow, the Jafferjee brother will next have to go to countries where Maithripala Sirisena will be visiting to ask him not to handover the ‘Visal Dambulla’ project investigation to the FCID.

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