FAISALABAD    -   The increasing volume of pollutants in our environment especially, the groundwater is exposing citizens to serious health hazards in terms of stomach, intestine, kidney and liver diseases. Repeated studies and researches have revealed presence of multiple pollutants in water and air due to continued flow of pollutants from industrial units and use of pesticides and insecticides in agriculture sector. Although number of firms and companies are busy in selling bottled water, yet the majority of population is compelled to use groundwater. As almost every city faces this problem, Faisalabad is also not an exception where thousands of residents suffer from these diseases especially the kidneys problem. Known as Manchester of Pakistan, Faisalabad bore the brunt of effluents dilemma as the capitalists of the city shied away from abiding by environmental laws and threw pollutants in open drains. This tendency continued over the decades contaminating most of the groundwater and the authorities could not give a matching response to this challenge. “At our hospital, 450 to 500 kidney patients visit our OPD every week and the number is constantly rising,” said Spokesperson of Allied Hospital Anwar Ali. “Our Urology Ward has the capacity of 62 beds where 70 patients are adjusted for treatment by arranging additional beds.”

Similarly, he said, twenty dialysis machines are operational in the Nephrology Ward and sometimes the patients have to wait for weeks to get dialysis treatment.

More or less a similar situation was observed at District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital where 33 dialysis machines were functional in nephrology ward.

“Three machines are reserved for any emergency situation while 30 were under permanent use for regular patients. We provide dialysis daily to 100 to 120 patients,” said Dr Ali Raza, the Spokesperson for DHQ Hospital. “We have just 10 bed facility at our Urology Ward that is quite insufficient for the increasing number of patients,” he added.

With the growing migration of people from rural to urban areas, the situation was becoming further worrisome and may aggravate during days ahead. By the time, according to rough estimates Faisalabad population has gone above eight million and medical facility in both public and private sector hospitals falls short of patient requirements.

“We need a full-fledged kidney hospital in the city with a capacity of 300 to 500 beds,” commented District Health Officer (DHO) Preventive Dr Waseem Bhatti. “If this population influx continues, our health facilities would be further over burdened that would be troublesome for the patients,” he said.

There is also dire need to raise awareness and educate people about the kidney disease as most of people are usually unaware as they are suffering from kidney diseases. “It is a pity that nine out of 10 patients do not know that they were suffering from kidney disease,” said Dr Muhammad Usman, Consultant Nephrologist & Transplant Physician at DHQ Hospital Faisalabad.

He said two out of three kidney patients were also victims of diabetes and high blood pressure while two out of five patients come to know about this disease when admitted to hospital. “Besides use of contaminated drinking water, the unhealthy life style, anxiety and substandard food are other reasons behind spread of this disease as most of kidney patients also suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes,” he said.

Giving details about the disease, he said when the patients suffer from glomerulonephritis, blood and protein are reported in urine test ascertaining that the patient was at a chronic stage. “However, if it is detected at early stage, there are more chances of recovery.” He said auto immune disorder is another reason that results in kidney disease. “We take simple and natural diet like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dried fruits, olive oil, brown rice and avoid processed, junk and fast foods, refined flour, red meat, processed meat, sweets, soft drinks and packed juices.”

He also recommended 20-25 minute walk or exercise daily and advised to immediately go for Creatinine test, Albumin Creatinine Ratio and complete urine examination if anybody feels symptoms of this disease. For awareness of the patients, Dr Usman said, if creatinine ratio increases in the urine, it may affect the kidney function. At this stage, the nephrologist recommends a test of “Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR)”. This test describes that how much blood a kidney filters.

Normally, the kidney filters 120–130 ml blood during one minute. If estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR) describes the said ratio of blood filtration, it means that the kidney function is normal. When albumin ratio increases in the urine, it causes high blood pressure in addition to swelling on patient’s feet as well as periorbital puffiness. At this stage the patient should immediately consult a nephrologist, he said.

Waqar Hussain, research officer PCRWR Water Quality Lab Faisalabad, said that Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) conducted a water survey on “Drinking Water Quality in Pakistan: Current Status and Challenges” and issued its study report 2021 which described that 59 percent sources of water were found unsafe in Faisalabad due to high TDS (23 percent), Iron (23 percent), Chlorides (23 percent), Nitrate (18 percent), Hardness (14 percent), Bacteriological Contamination (14 percent) and Fluoride (9 percent). The groundwater samples of the city containing sodium-bicarbonate (36 percent), magnesium-bicarbonate (18 percent), sodium-chloride (18 percent), calcium-bicarbonate (14 percent) and sodium-sulphate (9 percent). The main causes were microbial contamination, Chloride, Fluoride, Hardness and TDS which may causes diarrhea, hepatitis and kidney related problems, he added.

A spokesman of the local administration said that there were about 150 water filtration plants in different parts of the city. The government had started water filtration plant project in Faisalabad in 2014. Later, this scheme was ignored due to some reasons owing to which some filtration plant became out of order. However, now all these plants were made functional and handed over to Sylani Welfare Trust for maintenance and proper function.