Fluoride Action Network

Investigation into Buffalo deaths near Phosphate plant

Source: The Hindu (India) | December 9th, 2002 | by G. Krishnakumar
Location: India
Industry type: Phosphate Industry

The probe into the death of more than 35 buffaloes in Chitrapuzha recently has come to a virtual halt with the Animal Husbandry Department deciding not to submit its post-mortem report to the Pollution Control Board (PCB).

The department decision was taken on the basis that the results of the post-mortem conducted on the buffaloes would not help PCB in finding out the actual cause behind the deaths.There is no need to correlate the test reports as the department probe has already indicated that the death may have occurred due to toxicity.

The PCB decision that a final conclusion on the cause could be reached only after correlating the results would only help in delaying the probe, official sources said.

A report prepared by experts of the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU), Mannuthy, had ruled out any contagious disease as the main cause for the deaths.

The Animal Husbandry Department tests were almost over and it was now left to the PCB to take a final decision based on their test results, sources said.

The PCB, which tested samples of water taken from Chitrapuzha in connection with the buffalo deaths, had indicated that the acidic and fluoride levels were above normal levels at that time.

Tests conducted by the board proved that the acidic level was around 3.5 ph while the fluoride level touched 120 mg per litre. The samples were taken 48 hours after the death of the buffaloes.

Though it was found that acidic and fluoride levels were high at the time of the incident, the board had not been ready to ascribe this as a reason for the death of buffaloes.

Meanwhile, the investigation conducted by the Chief Diseases Investigation Officer (CDIO) at Thiruvananthapuram has found that the death of buffaloes occurred due to pulmonary congestion and oedema.

The office of the CDIO has sent tissues, liver, kidney, spleen and lymphoid of the dead buffaloes for histopathological examination. Sources said that these samples were sent to an outside laboratory for further examination. Results of these tests have not been published.

The PCB had earlier given a clean chit to industrial units along Chitrapuzha after it was found that water samples drawn from areas nearby these units recorded normal levels.

According to the report published by KAU, iron and sulphur contents in the water were high at that time. But there was no toxic content in water samples tested by experts at Mannuthy. Experts pointed out that dilution could be a reason for such a negative result.

Examination of the blood had not shown any trace of the animals being infected by any contagious disease. Oedema and congestion of lungs were detected during post-mortem of the dead buffaloes.

Microbiological examination of blood smear and nasal swabs also showed negative results. Based on a series of such tests, the department had ruled out infectious disease as a cause for the death of buffaloes.

Epidemological investigations indicated that the disease and death of buffaloes might have occurred due to toxological origin from the effluents of FACT (Fertilisers and Chemicals of Travancore). But experts said that there was no concrete evidence to prove this point.

The department had sent water samples and the viscera of the dead animals to the CDIO for further examination. During the post-mortem, it was found that the dead animals were suffering from respiratory tract infection.