Jordan ministers quit over water contamination

Published: Friday 31 August 2007

Officials inspect the faulty w (Credit: PETRA NEWS AGENCY)Water contamination led to the resignation of two ministers in Jordan following pressure from media and opposition parties. Jordan's water minister Mohammad al-Alem and health minister Saad Kharabsheh resigned on July 29 after being held responsible for hundreds falling ill with diarrhoea and high fever earlier in the month in Mansheyet Bani Hassan village, 70 km from the capital Amman. About 1,000 people needed hospitalisation.

The outbreak resulted from contamination of the water supply system by the non-fatal parasite Cryptosporidium, a state investigation found. The report did not say how the parasite got into the water supply system. Some reports say the aging water supply system was a good breeding ground for parasites. Others blame farmers for tapping and destroying pipelines to obtain water for their livestock.

Villagers complain that for the past few years they have been asking the government to repair the water network, which leaked and was rusted. "We have sent several letters over the past three years to the government urging it to renew the water network. But we were told to wait because of a lack of financial resources," said Fayez Shdeifat, member of parliament from Mafraq in northern Jordan.

Officials have now assured the villagers the faulty water network would be replaced within two weeks. They said the cost of renewing the country's water network was very high--almost half of the country's piped water is lost to leakages at present. The affected village is bringing water in trucks from neighbouring villages, who in turn are also afraid their water might get contaminated. As a precautionary step officials are conducting regular tests in nearby areas.

Cryptosporidium, discovered in the late 1970s, infects humans as well as domestic and wild animals. The disease is not fatal but causes diarrhoea lasting up to two weeks.

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