Asphyxiation during well digging

All over Afghanistan people mostly use semi-deep wells for getting potable water instead of getting drinking water from pipelines and tube wells.Digging of wells in the country is dangerous and sometime it leads to death.

According to geologists, underground layers have different kinds of gases and welldiggers face multitude of problems during the digging process.

Abdul Wasay, a welldigger in Kabul city, said, ‘I dig nearly eight to ten feet daily. During my work,Ifeel dizzy and nauseathathampers my work.’He has dug many wells in Kabul city but still had no experience of how to tacklethe underground gases.

Method to avoid gas asphyxiation

RaeesAqa, another well digger in Kabul city, said if the well-diggers do not follow safe procedures, then they could come in contact with underground gases,at a depth of10metresbelow the ground, and itcould lead to their death.

Gases are normally found in closed wells. The well diggers should keep the well open for four hours until the gasesare cleared.‘When I begin digging awellfirstputa thornbushorlimein the well,” he added.

RaeesAqawent on to say before going down intothe well he would wet lime in a bucket and leave it in the well for a few hours.The bucket of lime should be kept in the well until the lime boils and then brought out of the well.

The well digger has long working experience. He ties a piece of cloth at the end of a rope and rotates it inside in circular shape around the well like a fan to rid the well of gases. He repeats the process 12 times.

‘I do this until I become sure there is no gas left. Then I go down into the well with a hand fan to cool myself,’ he noted.

Gas asphyxiation

Mirwais, a resident of Charikar,the capital of central Parwan province, said he had enough experience of well-diggingin Chehilsutoon area of Kabul city.Mirwaissaid he lost a friend in gas suffocation. He demanded the government to provide them with needed equipmentsto avoid casualties while working.

Most of the labourers, who are digging wells, have no training of first aid.

Dr Mohammad Esa Jalal,a medical practitioner, said labourersdied in many cases because the strength and nature of gases varied from one well to another.

Dr Jalal said,‘It is essential to keep the victims of such incidents in open space to supply enough oxygen. But if the patient stops breathing there is a need of mouth to mouth breathing and the patient should be transferred immediately to the nearest health centreso that oxygen could be administered to the patient.”


He said,beforeenteringthe well,labourersandwell diggers should make sure whetherit had been an open or a closed one. ‘If the well was closed before entering, the well should be kept open for at least 24 hours. If it is possible they should use small balloons containing oxygen with mask inside the well.’


Sayyed Mir Bahaddar, a professor of geology faculty at Kabul University, said there are trapped carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gases in earth’s crust, which could cause deaths while digging wells.Hesaid limeand thorn-bush,which neutralise it,should be used forremoval of underground gases.

‘All measures for protection should be taken, but first of all layers should be studied well to check the presence of harmful gases,’ he added.

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