Sri Lanka is facing a very difficult time due to an intensifying economic and political crisis. Limited supply of essential items, daily power outages and long queues for fuel and gas are common sights around the country, which has resulted in island wide public protests against the ruling regime.
In this context, a number of posts have been circulating on social media, which claimed about water purification issues in Colombo, owing to the existing situation of the country. However, our investigation found these claims to be misleading.
Social Media Posts
A number of Facebook posts both in English as well as Sinhala, requested public to be cautious about the tap water in Colombo, claiming that many instance of purge related sicknesses had been reported from the area. These posts pointed out that the causes of water contamination were the lack of power supply to purification centers as well as the shortage of Chlorine in the country. Below is one Facebook post.
We noticed number of similar posts getting shared in all 3 languages: Sinhala, English and Tamil
These claims were viral in WhatsApp as well.
Due to the impactful nature of these posts to the day-to-day life, we decided to do an investigation on this.
The first thing we did was to look into the mainstream media reports related to chlorine shortages, power supply issues and any illnesses reported from hospitals around Colombo, due to the quality of drinking water in recent times. Since we could not find any substantial evidence in this regard we decided to contact some of the concerned parties related to these claims.
First we contacted the National Water Supply and Drainage Board. Its Senior Communication Officer Ms. S.R.R. Karunaratne told us that the board had sufficient stocks of chlorine for another six months.
Following these viral claims the Water Supply and Drainage Board had issued a press release as well, as seen below.
The release requested the public to be wary of false claims and stated that the tap water released from NWSDB is 100% safe to consume and the water is distributed only after frequent standard tests were carried out at water purification centers as well as in the distribution system.
But how about the claim about power supply issues to treatment plants? Were these plants given an uninterrupted power supply, under a priority scheme by the Electricity Board? In order to find answers to these questions we contacted CEB (Ceylon Electricity Board) Media Spokesman Andrew Navamuni. He told us that CEB had been doing its utmost to provide an uninterrupted power supply to areas with water treatment plants. However, he added that in a few instances, power cuts had been scheduled to these areas as well.
Is there an increase in the number of patients suffering from diseases such as vomiting due to water contamination in the Colombo area? The Chief Medical Officer of the Colombo Municipal Council Dr. Vijayamuni told us that there isn’t any marked increase in the number of patients with such conditions in the Colombo Municipal Council area.
We also inquired about the condition of patients received at the Ragama hospital, one of the main hospitals in the suburbs of Colombo (Gampaha District), from its director Dr. Liyanage Ranaweera. He also said there was no significant increase in the number of patients being hospitalized due to drinking water contamination issues.
Sinhala language version of this fact check can be read here.
Follow us and stay up to date with our latest fact checks.
Our inquiries revealed that the reports on social media claiming that pipe water in Colombo is unsuitable for consumption due to a shortage of chlorine and power supply issues are misleading. While Ceylon Electricity Board acknowledged that there were minor power cuts in some water treatment plant areas, National Water Supply Board assures that the water released after frequent tests are 100% safe and claims related to Chlorine supply are false as there are stocks lasting up to 6 more months. Furthermore, health authorities in Colombo and suburbs also have not come across any specific illness related to water contamination in the past few weeks.
Title:Is Water in Colombo not suitable to drink due to Chlorine shortage and Purification issues? Find out the Facts…Fact Check By: Kalana Krishantha