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Nuals Kochi struggles with water contamination, Hep A outbreak

Colored water on Nuals campus, 8 Hep A cases, cause concerns on campus
Colored water on Nuals campus, 8 Hep A cases, cause concerns on campus

Nuals Kochi students have asked the law school to apply for an exemption from holding classes, as the college is dealing with a Hepatitis A epidemic in the run up to its semester exams, allegedly due to contaminated water on campus.

The campus’ only source of drinking and sanitation water – a water tank – was allegedly being filled with contaminated water from outside of campus. Since around 1 March 2017, students began developing skin rashes and stomach infections, with eventually eight reported cases of Hepatitis A amongst students.

On top of that, Nuals students would lose out on the University Grants Commission (UGC) stipulated minimum lecture hours needed to appear in the end of semester examinations next month, if the law school shuts down this month due to the lack of clean water on campus. This would cause a delay in exams and a consequent delay in graduation and advocate enrolment for final year LLB and LLM students.


The Nuals administration has not officially declared the campus water tank to be contaminated and the probable cause of the Hepatitis A cases, but its three separate official notifications since 8 March point to such circumstances.

On 8 March, the law school declared a holiday from 10 March to 26 March, without stating reasons:

First Nuals notification: Holiday
First Nuals notification: Holiday

On 25 March, the administration official declared a water scarcity on campus and allocated designated eight hours in the day during which water would be available to those on campus:

Nuals notification: Water scarcity
Nuals notification: Water scarcity

Finally, yesterday it notified that “a few” cases of Hepatitis A were reported among the students and advised those living in hostels to only use boiled water provided in the mess as a preventive measure:

Third notification: Only use boiled water
Third notification: Only use boiled water

Nuals VC Rose Varghese was not reachable by phone and email since yesterday evening.

A Nuals student told us yesterday that greenish-yellow coloration was noticed in the water available through the campus tank, since the end of February.

Students complained to the administration, which allegedy denied anything was wrong with the water. Following this denial, students started falling sick, developing rashes and stomach infections, and therefore the student body protested about the water to the administration again.

Some of the students had by now sent the water for chemical tests and the results showed an excess of iron content in the water.

The administration then released the 8 March notification shutting the law school for two weeks, and also circulated a WhatsApp message that anyone choosing to stay back on campus would be doing so at their own risk.

When the law school re-opened there was a regulation on the usage of water and the availability of running water was supplemented by the provision of water bubbles to students, said the campus source.

This past week however, eight students fell sick and tested positive for Hepatitis A.

A Kerala problem?

Nuals registrar MG Mahadev commented today: “Water scarcity is a problem in Kerala. We don’t have our own well [on campus], all water comes from outside source. Requirement [of water on the Nuals campus] is 1.5 lakh litre per day - almost double the government approved quantity per person.”

Mahadev said that the water from the source, when sent for testing, had excessive iron content - it was 1 mg/litre, whereas it should be at 0.3 mg/litre. The university has sent it for testing to a private hospital, he said, as a government hospital takes 2-3 months to deliver the test results.

He said that the law school had cleaned the campus tank when its classes were shut down for two weeks, and since then the mess has been providing boiled water and mineral water bottles to students. The water situation has resulted in double the usual monthly water expenditure, he said.

“If we’re continuing classes then we have to provide water, it’s our responsibility we are aware of all those things. But we can not ensure quality [of the source water in Kerala so easily]. A medical team came here, doctors were here yesterday - they gave students awareness regarding their doubts.”

He also said that though the law school is not debating the cause of the 8 reported Hepatitis A cases, it has not yet been confirmed that they were caused by the water contamination on campus as “moreover students who have reported Hepatitis A, all those except 1 or 2 have gone out of Kerala for moots and only when they have come back they have developed symptoms”.

Semester examinations

Nuals’ end of semester exams are scheduled for May and the UGC stipulates a minimum number of lecture hours which a university has to conduct before it can hold semester exams.

Due to the excessively costly nature of the water contamination problem coupled with the Hepatitis A epidemic on campus, said our source, the law school may not have any alternative to shutting classes down this month, leading to a loss in the requisite number of lecture hours.

The final year LLB students have therefore asked the administration to apply for the UGC’s exemption against the minimum stipulation, which allows universities to hold exams without fulfilling the lecture hour requirement in rare cases.

One final year student we spoke to said that a delay in the holding of exams would be a severe inconvenience to final year students and to LLM students as it would delay their graduation certificates and advocate enrolment.

Mahadev said that the water problem on campus is under control at the moment and the law school is not considering applying to the UGC for the exemption.

Picture by Pixnio

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