Afghan schoolgirls poisoned in anti-education attack


A young Pashtun girl looks out from the window of a classroom during recess at a government funded coeducational school in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar September 20, 2005. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/Files

April 17,2012 (Reuters) – About 150 Afghan schoolgirls were poisoned on Tuesday after drinking contaminated water at a high school in the country’s north, officials said, blaming it on conservative radicals opposed to female education.

Since the 2001 toppling of the Taliban, which banned education for women and girls, females have returned to schools, especially in Kabul.

But periodic attacks still occur against girls, teachers and their school buildings, usually in the more conservative south and east of the country, from where the Taliban insurgency draws most support.

“We are 100 percent sure that the water they drunk inside their classes was poisoned. This is either the work of those who are against girls’ education or irresponsible armed individuals,” said Jan Mohammad Nabizada, a spokesman for education department in northern Takhar province.

Some of the 150 girls, who suffered from headaches and vomiting, were in critical condition, while others were able to go home after treatment in hospital, the officials said.

They said they knew the water had been poisoned because a larger tank used to fill the affected water jugs was not contaminated.

“This is not a natural illness. It’s an intentional act to poison schoolgirls,” said Haffizullah Safi, head of Takhar’s public health department.

None of the officials blamed any particular group for the attack, fearing retribution from anyone named.

The Afghan government said last year that the Taliban, which has been trying to adopt a more moderate face to advance exploratory peace talks, had dropped its opposition to female education.

But the insurgency has never stated that explicitly and in the past acid has been thrown in the faces of women and girls by hardline Islamists while walking to school.

Education for women was outlawed by the Taliban government from 1996-2001 as un-Islamic.

(Reporting by Mohammad Hamid; Writing by Jack Kimball, Editing by Rob Taylor and Sanjeev Miglani)

You are living in Toxic Gujarat



Ahmedabad, TNN, : Denting the “green image” of Gujarat, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its 2011-12’ civil report, has claimed that there is an “upward trend” in the incidence of water-borne diseases due to contaminated water in rivers, lakes and groundwater.

It cites South Gujarat as the worst cases, where industrial clusters like Vapi and Ankleshwar and Nandesari near Vadodara have been blamed for blatantly violating the state’s pollution control norms and discharging un-treated waste to nearby water bodies.

About 32% of the state’s drinking water sources were found to be “contaminated” during pre-monsoon survey but affected villagers were not alerted, claims CAG.
Thought there were “alternate sources of safe drinking water” in 4,215 villages, the top state-owned body, Water and Sanitation Management Organisation (WASMO) remained indifferent and did not alert the affected population.

The report has outrightly blamed a lacka-daisical attitude of the state government, including agencies like Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) of ignoring effects of pollution on human health in its policies.

The CAG report says, “Risks to human health from waterborne and water  related diseases due to pollution of rivers and from presence of arsenic, zinc, iron, mercury, copper, chromium, cadmium, lead, and persistent organic pollutants in river, lake and groundwater have not been assessed by the government.”

The CAG clamis the number of cases of acute diarrheal disease went up from 5.87 lakhs in 2006 to 6.73 lakhs in 2010, viral hepatitis went up from 10,061 to 16,234, enteric fever went up from 12,850 to 38,775; and cholera went up from 50 to 573.

CAG said, though rapid response teams were made available to fight these diseases, “Water pollution continued to pose a perennial challenge to the public health system in the State”.

Refereeing to Gorva lake in Vadodara CAG said hutment residence and slaughter houses adjourning the lake were discharging domestic waste, untreated water and sewerage and slaughter house waste into the lake.

“The Water Quality Review Committee (WQRC) was set up (in 2002) to function as the nodal agency for compilation of report, and convene meetings of implementing or testing agencies but WQRC convened only 6 meetings in eight years and did not meet even once in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010” CAG noted.

Times View: Chief Minister Narendra Modi has authored a 236 – page book ‘Convenient Action: Gujarat’s Response To Challenges Of Climate Change’. Yet, CAG’s report from the ground paints a frightening picture of the environment damage that rapidly developing Gujarat has skirted for many decades. We thank the CAG for rightly focusing on the toxic hot spot which has no khushboo. Only stench blowing through our nostrils and chemicals flushing down our throats.

HARDTALK:

  • Inlet effluent characteristic of CETPs of Ankleshwar, Vapi and Veraval were in excess to prescribed limits. This indicated that individual members were not carrying out effective primary treatment
  • Government has not identified aquatic species, flora and fauna which are affected by water pollution
  • Quantification of human activities around water bodies not been carried out
  • Poor quality of planning as no information was available with the state government
  • No action taken by the government to check deteriorating quality of ground water
  • No continuous monitoring of ground-water.

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