"Tajikistan: Water, chlorine, & health"

Source: Foreign Policy Association / Central Asia / May 31st, 2007  http://centralasia.foreignpolicyblogs.com/2007/05/31/tajikistan-water-chlorine-health/

 
Every year, a new typhoid epidemic: The most famous one in 2003, during the Central Asian Games, hosted in Dushanbe.  Officials made one public service announcement, while residents and visitors continued to get sick.  Tajikistan does better with this obligation now, because they are reporting that:

Right now, in Kulyab, Tajikistan, there are 62 confirmed cases of typhoid, and 17 more in outlying areas of the township. The culprit, according to IWPR, is aging water systems, with pipe first laid in the 1930ís under Soviet management, and only partially revitalized in the 1970ís.

According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), typhoid results through infection by Salmonella typhi. Only humans contract this disease, through contact with sewage or unclean water or from people who are shedding Salmonella bacteria who have handled food.  Salmonella creates high fever, and if left untreated, compromises the integrity of intestinal walls, creating permeable ulcers, perforation, and death.  This life-threatening illness is therefore a large problem in the developing world, where water safety is not assured.  World-wide, 21.5 million people are affected by this disease.
Much of the typhoid incidence in Tajikistan is also due to insufficient chlorination of water.  The Water Quality & Health Council has a relatively short article on why chlorine is considered optimal for water purification: the main point appears to be that chlorine not only kills existing bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli, but also has a residual antibacterial affect. 

According to the Chlorine Institute, there are at least three processes used to make chlorine, all three involving electrolyzing a chloride salt.  The oldest and least environmentally sound method (Note: the Chlorine Institute did not go here) uses mercury as the cathode.  During the 1990ís, without Soviet oversight and during the Tajik Civil War, Tajikistanís existing chlorination plant was damaged or unsupervised, and mercury from these plants has also escaped into the water table.  Revitalizing or re-tooling Tajikistanís chlorine manufacture is an infrastructure project well worth support by one of Tajikistanís allies. 

Insufficient or inconstant power to municipal water systems creates another problem in maintaining water purity.  When pumps are sometimes stopped, water does not flow, and untreated water slips into treated water.  Therefore, work toward Tajikistanís energy security should also be understood as work toward water security as well.

Photos & Diagrams: BBC; Sanger Institute; Greener-Industry.org.