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Women Deliver Babies With Eye Defects in Jharkhand Villages

Nearly 30 women in two Jharkhand villages have given birth to babies with eyesight defects. Environmentalists and villagers has blamed the air and water pollution //caused by coal mining in the area.

Four women of Chatro village in Giridih district, around 200 km from here, were brought to Ranchi with their newborns Saturday. The babies were admitted to an eye hospital with severe eye defects at the initiative of the state health department. While two babies have no eyeballs, the other two have only one eyeball each.

"The disease is known as micro ophthalmic and is caused by environmental pollution or hereditary problems," said Bharati Kashyap, the doctor treating the four newborns here.

State Health Minister Bhanu Pratap Shahi also visited the hospital. "We have asked the civil surgeon and Giridih district administration to investigate the matter and submit a report. All possible help will be extended to these children by the government," he said.

According to residents of Giridih district, both Chatro and Mahuatand villages in Giridih witness babies born with either physical deformities or eyesight problems.

"There are around 30 children in Chatro and Mahuatand who are facing eye defects and physical deformities," said Basukinath, a resident of Chatro.

Extensive coal mining is carried out in Giridih and the mine waste is released into water sources - a huge threat to the health of villagers living in nearby areas.

According to health experts, the waste released into streams might contain toxic elements like arsenic, fluoride, mercury, cadmium and lead, which may be the cause behind the physical disabilities.

"There is a possibility that pregnant women are either inhaling toxic elements or are consuming them through polluted drinking water," said Nitish Priyadarshi, an environmentalist, who has worked on water pollution in coal mining areas.

He added: "T he state government should investigate the water and air pollution with the help of experts to ascertain the exact reason behind the physical deformities and eyesight problems among new born babies in these villages".

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