As certain Muslim groups opposed cremation of their COVID19 victims various arguments were brought in public by several fractions for and against it. For instance in Sri Lanka several Muslim members of parliament and few lawyers argued that they need to perform their religious rites by burying the said victims who died out of corona pandemic. However the Prime Minister in an open forum of all the party leaders of parliament of Sri Lanka addressed to the issue and directed the matter to Director General of Health Services of Sri Lanka where he concluded with his opinion stating that no COVID victims’ body can be let buried due to various conditions in Sri Lanka. However even after this matter was solved with the intervention of prime minister several members of parliament went on to protest on social media against the steps taken which also attracted international media and in addition several pressure groups including few NGO members wrote to the president to consider this matter. Meanwhile Prof. MeththikaVithanage(Ph.D in Hydrogeology; Prof.in Natural Resources) has conveyed the expert opinion on this matter where she has noted that –
” it is advisable to have careful measures in destroying the infected dead bodies, septic and sanitary waste in proper conditions without provisioning chances for any future disease outbreak.”
Prof.MeththikaVithanage’s expert opinion is as follows –
“It has been a well-known fact that the cemeteries are among the chief anthropogenic sources of pollution and contamination of groundwater in urban areas and beyond, in the area of hydrogeology. In the process of decomposition of a human body, 0.4 – 0.6 liters of leachate is produced per 1 kg of body weight, which may contain pathogenic bacteria and viruses that may contaminate the groundwater. Burial in any means causes soil contamination and then leads to groundwater pollution via the discharge of inorganic nutrients, nitrate, phosphate, ammonia, chlorides etc. and various microorganisms. High biomedical and chemical oxygen demands, ammonia and organic carbon have been reported as high as several hundreds of mg in L from cemeteries and mass burial sites. In the case of viruses, recent studies indicate that viral may transport in soil with rainfall infiltration and extends specifically to drinking water from an untreated groundwater source. Several scientific publlications report virus occurrence rates of about 30 percent of groundwater. Virus transport in groundwater is associated with a high degree of temporal and spatial variability,which is often attributed to absorption, filtaration, soil water content, temperature, pH , type of virus and hydraulic stresses and climatic conditions. It has been observed that viruses in ground water can be correlated with their concentrations in wastewater and with groundwater recharge events. The exfiltration from sewers and cemeteries are the most likely source of human viruses to this groundwater system, and leakage from sewers during heavy precipitation enhanced virus transport. The transport is often associated with both the unsaturated and saturated subsurface composed of varying geological settings with corresoponding hydrogeological variability. Included among the essential hydrogeological factors that can be used to evaluate viral transport are the flux of moisture in the unsaturated zone, the media through which the particles travel, porosity, the length of the flow path, and the time of travel. In Sri Lanka, we experience high rainfall, low groundwater table, highly porous subsurface soil, and fractured rocks compared to most temperate countries in the world, which may lead the transport of biological and chemical compounds from dead bodies. Although WHO recommendation guidelines suit temperate countries mainly, not tropical high-temperature high r-ainfall countries where we experience high decomposition rates and highly variable water table. This is where the local hydrogeological knowledge is essential to protect groundwater as well as forthcoming infection occurrence. Given the vulnerability of our groundwater aquifers, and lack of understanding about the behavior of COVID-19 virus, there can be a risk from dead bodies, septic waste or sanitary waste are having any contact with water sources. Hence, it is advisable to have careful measures in destroying the infected dead bodies, septic and sanitary waste in proper conditions without provisioning chances for any future disease outbreak”.
It is appropriate to follow the opinion of experts on the subject and health authorities in order to eradicate the covid19 outbreak in each country of Asian Region. Currently there is no specific treatment for the disease caused by novel coronavirus and therefore social distancing is followed throughout Asia by imposing curfew and lockdownof countries and high risk cities. Compared to western world Asian region has maintained a better control of coronavirus outbreak and all the efforts taken by each government is hereby appreciated on behalf of Asian Truth.
SanjayaMarambe , Eranda Nawarathne