Posted on December 10th, 2016


The geochemistry of the area where   CKDu disease is prevalent is of utmost importance, observed Prof. C.B. Dissanayake. Sri Lanka‘s CKDu is clearly geo-specific.  However, the approach of the doctors and other scientists researching into CKDu was far too academic, said Ranjit Mulleriyawa. Patients were looked at objectively. Researchers focused on laboratory analysis of samples of rice, water, urine. ‘Their learned discussions did not lead to any meaningful action which directly addressed the problem’,  Mulleriyawa said,   because they had no acquaintance with ‘rural realities’   and had failed to   ‘engage the villager in dialogue.’

Ranjit Mulleriyawa, a graduate of University of the Philippines, with a diploma in agriculture from School of Agriculture, Kundasale, owned and     worked a farm in Mahiyangana. In January 2016, he decided to investigate CKDu. A pilot project was launched at Ginnoruwa Grama niladhari division of Mahiyangana. Ginnoruwa had been identified as an emerging CKDu hot spot.   Friends and relatives provided the seed money. Commercial Bank CSR also gave support. International Water Management Institute and other scientists helped with the investigations. Mulleriyawa worked with two ‘highly committed’ women and a three wheeler for transport. Households identified as CKDU affected were visited personally by the two researchers.

The Grama Niladhari division selected, had four villages, Badulupura, Ginnoruwa, Sarabhoomi and Serupitiya. Badulupura was located on the upper slopes, while the other villages were on flat land close to the paddy fields. Most of the villagers were rice farmers.  They had been settled there in 1989, under the Accelerated Mahaweli project. They had come from Badulla, Welimada, Passara, Ettampitiya and Kandeketiya in the Badulla district. Before that Ginnoruwa area had been covered in forest.

The percentages of households affected with CKDu were Sarabhoomi 2%, Serupitiya 3%, Ginnoruwa 7% and Badulupura 25%.   In Sarabhoomi there was only one positively diagnosed CKDU patients, he too had lived for 10 years in Badulupura. Farmers in both Badulupura and Sarabhoomi had their paddy fields located in the same tract of flat land. They used the same fertilizer and pesticides.  Therefore agro chemicals applied to the paddy fields could not   be the cause of CKDu.  The likely cause was an environmental factor in the homesteads of Badulupura.

Mulleriyawa thought that water was the cause. There is something in the water that is making them sick, he said. Badulupura villagers drank well water obtained from shallow dug wells in their homestead while Sarabhoomi residents drank water from the Mahaweli river nearby. Badulupura complained of hard water, ‘kivul vatura’, in their wells. River water had no kivul, said Sarabhoomi. The few dug wells in Sarabhoomi   had exceptionally good quality water and Sarabhoomi villagers, who lived far away from the river, drank water from these wells.

There was considerable   variation in water quality of domestic wells in Badulupura. An area with many wells of poor quality will suddenly provide a well having exceptionally good quality water and farmers would spot this quickly.  Many homesteads in Ginnoruwa had more than one well.  Some are abandoned due to poor water and Mulleriyawa warned that researchers must be careful not to take samples from them assuming that people drink the water.

A chemical analysis of well water and river water in Sarabhoomi and Badulupura was    done, with the assistance of geologists at University of Peradeniya. They found that the electrical conductivity of the Badulupura wells ranged from   300 micros to 700 or more. River water was rarely over 200 micros. The electrical conductivity of water reflected the concentration of ions in the water. These ions came from the salts, alkalis, chlorides, sulfides and carbonate compounds dissolved in the water.

These findings from Ginnoruwa have not been reported anywhere else in Sri Lanka, said Mulleriyawa. hey indicated that the quality of drinking water may be the clue to unraveling this mystery, but finding exactly what it is in the water, which causes kidney damage, may take quite some time. ‘We are now mapping the precise GPS location of all domestic wells in Badulupura and Sarabhoomi with assistance from IWMI and University of Peradeniya. His findings attracted   attention. A former Director General of Agriculture and a ‘retired professor from Ruhuna ‘were interested in visiting the two villages described.

The Ginnoruwa study showed the urgent necessity of providing clean drinking water to CKDU affected villages. Mulleriyawa formed the Rainwater Harvesting Forum with support of the Geology department, University of Peradeniya and the medical staff at Girandurukottte and Kandy hospitals. He thereafter started a rainwater harvesting progamme called the ‘Raindrops project’ to give Badulupura clean drinking water. it was funded by Commercial Bank and other private donors

He created a control group and gave them rainwater tanks. There were no new cases diagnosed in the control group.   Many claimed that they no longer suffered from the burning sensation when passing urine, which they had experienced earlier. Rainwater harvesting could be a solution to providing potable water to scattered rural household in the Dry zone, observed Mulleriyawa. Government has only given water filters and expensive water treatment plants.  The cheap rainwater tanks used in his project will be better.

Mulleriyawa started to publish his findings in the Daily News and Island newspapers in August 2016. He said that for the past six months he has been engaged in studying the problem of CKDu.    The last essay, where he indicated that he may be getting closer to detecting the causes of CKDu was published on 13th September 2016. At the end of the essay there came this announcement ‘The author passed away unexpectedly on Sept 10, 2016.’ (CONCLUDED)


  1. Christie Says:

    Unfortunately there is no racial profiling of CKDU affected persons. An analysis on these lines might shed some lights.

  2. Cerberus Says:

    It is really strange that the person who was getting close to the solution to the problem suddenly passed away. Should not the circumstances of his death be thoroughly investigated? Should we also not measure the degree of Glyphosate and other chemicals found in the well water. The excessive Glyphosate applied in the Tea plantations seeps down and flows into the lower lying areas contaminating the water table? What happened to the 500,000 tons of Glyphosate which had been imported by a leading chemical company in Sri Lanka? Where did it go when the Govt banned the Glyphosate. It has been found in the West that GMO foods have high levels of Glyphosate since more of it is used on them since the plants are engineered to tolerate high levels of Glyphosate. New emerging data seems to suggest that Glyphosate interferes with the bio flora in the gut which assists in digestion. Taking extra yogurt to replace the gut bio flora appears to help.

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