Kalita Majhi, who works as a maid in four houses and earns Rs 2,500 a month, was in the news as BJP gave her the party ticket from Ausgram Assembly constituency located in Purba Burdwan district, Bengal.The district is known to be deprived of safe drinking water like so many others.

Dental fluorosis (‘mottled enamel’) is a condition where fluoride interacts with tooth enamel causing discoloration and possible weakening or loss of teeth, that can be seen in the photo above.  That is the easiest symptom to identify endemic fluorosis anywhere.  

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), NGO of  USA founded in 1970, says:

“This widespread problem of water pollution is jeopardizing our health. Unsafe water kills more people each year than war and all other forms of violence combined. Meanwhile, our drinkable water sources are finite: Less than 1 percent of the earth’s freshwater is actually accessible to us. Without action, the challenges will only increase by 2050, when global demand for freshwater is expected to be one-third greater than it is now.”

More than five lakh children below age 5, mostly the poor, die every year in India, the nuclear power,  because of water-related diseases.

Even as India celebrates Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav to commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence,it has not cared to provide bare needs like safe potable drinking water to masses of  people. Union  Water Resources Ministry  had identified, in 20 states, around 335 fluorosis-affected districts in India. Modi regime (NDA-1 and now 2) has not touched the fringe of the problem, notwithstanding tall claims, including of Swatch bharat,with billions spent on it, but which has no component of Swatch (pure and safe) water.

In Telangana (TS), piped surface water to every doorstep was promised by TRS in 2014 polls…it said ‘don’t vote to us next time if we do not implement it’ and TRS won, also in 2019. Today much of what was promised was implemented in TS, thanks to a sustained mass movement, and Fluorosis is mitigated to a significant degree.  

There were no such movements and activities in Bengal despite Telangana’s experiences, well known to CPM. TRS and KCR of  separate Telangana movement used this issue to win the polls, but not the CPM, which is keener on alliancs with a sinking Congress. More than three decades of Left Front rule and two terms of TMC rule have not addressed the  problem in Bengal seriously, not to speak of  Assam. People face a choice between the devil and the deep sea.

Bengal suffers from a double burden of high levels of fluorosis and arsenic in groundwater:  East and West Burdwan, Malda, Hooghly, Howrah, Murshidabad, Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas districts reel under arsenic  and fluorosis  problems. The poor, dependent on unsafe and ground water for drinking, are particularly vulnerable, also compounded by malnutrition. The BJP candidate represents such a population, with dental fluorosis and mottled enamel, as can be seen even in the photo.

Over 10 crore people in the country are getting drinking water contaminated with excess fluoride,  Lok Sabha was informed on December  21, 2017, reported PTI. Most stunning  admission by Union government.  But it is not an urgent agenda of  political parties, including BJP.

Obviously, the above or other data by  Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation is not consistent, nor exact, but it is only indicative of a very big threat India is facing. There are two issues to be noted in this regard. The data is neither complete nor based on scientific parameters.

It is 10 crore people affected by fluorosis, and  7.04 crore by arsenic !

In many of the places in India, Fluoride, Arsenic, nitrates , lead, mercury, strontium , even uranium,  etc in drinking water are playing havoc with people’s lives and health.

An earlier, official document, Guidelines – 2013,  of   Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation (Movement towards ensuring people’s Drinking Water Security in Rural India) in Annexure III says :

“ Excess fluoride and arsenic in ground water drinking sources has given rise to crippling and incurable diseases like fluorosis and arsenical dermatitis. Fluoride contamination continues to affect 17986 habitations in 19 states and excess arsenic continues to affect 4314 habitations of West Bengal, Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and other States. New evidence suggests that the whole Ganga-Meghna-Brahmaputra belt is under threat of arsenic contamination. In India current estimates place 30-40 lakh people at risk from arsenic poisoning and 5 crore people exposed to excess fluoride, iron, nitrate and salinity.”  

The numbers have gone up eversince. That is where Bengal and Assam share disease burden, and in the current polls, no party is keen, they are not interested in this basic issue of drinking water.

The above  statement , however, is defective: That it is incurable is not true. Many studies showed the damage can be stopped, even reversed. FMRRC had stated this fact in several fora, official as well as unofficial. (see photo of two children later in this report.) But we are not going into it now. It is not mere dermatitis , but arsenic is carcinogenic and deadly.

Dr. AK Sushhela , an internationally renowned authority on the subject, gave the figure of 62 millions in 2001 : published, under the title Fluorosis in India: an overview , in Int J Res Dev Health. April 2013; Vol 1(2)     http://www.ijrdh.com/files/11.Fluorosis.pdf ) :

“The available data suggest that 15 States in India are endemic for fluorosis (fluoride level in drinking water >1.5 mg/l), and about 62 million people in India suffer from dental, skeletal and non-skeletal fluorosis. Out of these; 6 million are children below the age of 14 years [9].          ( Based on Susheela, A.K. Fluorosis: Indian scenario: A treatise on fluorosis. Fluorosis Research and Rural Development Foundation; New Delhi, India. 2001.)

Another estimate , about the arsenic problem:

“ In 6 states of the Ganga-Brahmaputra Plain,  704 lakh people  are potentially at risk from groundwater arsenic toxicity.” (sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0946672X16300712)

The official  figures are  a gross under-estimate for the simple reason that the government’s data  is based on an out-dated  criterion  of 1.5 ppm of fluoride as upper  limit while the latest international recommendation for India and such hot climates is just 0.5ppm ( means 0.5mg/Litre).

In an International conference on Fluorosis held at NIN, Hyderabad,  in November 2016, experts from International Society for Fluoride Research (ISFR)  proposed that safety levels of fluoride in drinking water in India should be fixed at 0.5 ppm (parts per million) from the existing 1 ppm. This consensus was reached by experts attending the 33rd International Conference of ISFR. One can only imagine the gravity of the situation if this recommendation is taken. Dr Arjun L Khandare, of National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), president, International Committee of the Society for Fluorosis, said, “The panel will submit the policy document to the Government of India very soon.” Obviously, the government has not accepted it. (Inrem, Gujarat and FMRRC Karnataka, were among the participants from India in this international conference.)

Empty slogans : Double engine or double yoke? 

That the state governments failed to tackle the issues is indisputable. Prime Minister Modi and BJP Chief Amit Shah have been campaigning, in Bengal, Assam, and Tamilnadu with half-truths, promising development for all, sab ka vikas, ‘as in BJP-ruled states’! And they speak of need for double-engine for development and resolution of problems. They mean BJP should rule in the states and at Centre too.

UP Chief Minister Adityanath too is pressed into election campaign service. Their performance in those states, UP included, is too poor for comparison, as can be seen below. The double-engine has not worked in UP (see photo below) or Karnataka, both ruled by BJP, and both notorious for contamination of drinking water, despite having river waters aplenty.  

 It is an ever- increasing problem affecting the poor more. Governments have  not so far taken commensurate steps to protect the large population. Swach Bharat Mission (SBM)  is impossible without Swach Jal. Sab ka Vikas is not possible without safe drinking water to all. Make in India is impossible when crores of people, more so the toiling classes, are down with diseases and are crippled. But all these sloganof Modi are peddled.

Millions of people are literally getting crippled  by fluorosis, with painful and stiff joints, and deformed bodies.  Given below is a photo from UP, Sonbhadra zone; the women are NOT of old age, but crippled by polluted  drinking water.

UP with Double engine that failed. Accursed Country : Upriver from Benares,Uttar Pradesh,  ask Sonbhadra’s people about the price of development. It shows on their bodies, says a Report in  weekly magazine (10 November 2014).  Sonbhadra  pointed to high levels of mercury and fluoride in the air and water . (https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/accursed-county/292455).

The River Ganga remains polluted even as former IIT-K Prof GD Agarawal died on 111st day of fasting for purification  of the river in October 2018. He had fasted in 2012 too, for over 70 days.   He was a Member secretary of Central Pollution Control Board. Modi condoled his death, but the problem remains unresolved despite an allocation of rs. 20000 cr for Namami gange, cleaning the river project (2015-2020) (Mirror Now Ground Report, 2019.)… that is despite the double engine.

***                    ***

Let us now see the case Bengal, as reported by official agencies.

West Bengal Drinking Water Sector Improvement Project (RRP IND 49107-006) Report , (see extracts, snap-shots, below)  discussing Vision 2020 etc,  was prepared by the British Geological Survey of the United Kingdom and national hydrogeologists, engaged by the ADB during the project preparatory stage, who conducted a detailed analysis of arsenic and fluoride in drinking water in West Bengal. It speaks of Assam too. Data are gross under-estimations, it may be noted.

It is 30 to 40 years since the twin problems were identified in Bengal. But no serious efforts were made, obviously by the Left Front too.  Perhaps there is no place for drinking water in the competitive welfarism of electoral politics.  

Figure 3. Map of Fluoride-Affected Areas in West Bengal

After this macro picture, now we see below a specific ground report from Bengal.

But the situation is not exclusive or exceptional to the area mentioned.

***                              ***

In Bengal’s Gangarampur, at least one member of every household has fluorosis;

And 90% of children, even at early age 10, are impaired by pain in joints

“Anirban Sarkar often complains of toothache and pain in his joints. The 10-year-old studies in a government school at Bikoir Kapalipara village in Gangarampur administrative block of Dakshin Dinajpur district. His classmate Arpita (13) suffers from similar ailment and sometimes does not attend school when the pain is extreme.  Snehasish (8) has started showing symptoms of the disease…Over 90% of children in Anirban’s school have discolored teeth and complain of pain in joints,” says a report by Gurvinder Singh, of Nov 23, 2018.

Kamal Biswas (18) can hardly walk as he is suffering from advanced stage of skeletal fluorosis. He can barely stand nowadays.The illness has robbed him off his education. “He was a bright student and scored well in school but the ailment has snatched his childhood,” said his father. Kamal Biswas quit school after Class V since he could not walk. “The village doesn’t have a health center and we don’t have the means to take him to Malda city for treatment,” he said. “He often complains of pain in his joints but I am helpless and I don’t know what lies in future for him.”

Their age tells how soon, and how badly, children are impaired. Gangarampur is the worst affected block of the district, with at least one member of every household having symptoms of the disease.

The disease occurs due to high intake of fluoride through water and food. Dakshin Dinajpur is the worst hit district in West Bengal, with hundreds of people in five blocks, namely, Gangarampur, Banshihari, Kumarganj, Tapan and Kushmandi, suffering from fluorosis. Water  was tested  last year and the fluoride level was 2.2 mg per liter, much beyond the permissible limit of 1 mg per liter.

The villagers are not aware that their children are suffering from fluorosis, a disease characterized by mottling of teeth and skeletal deformities in extreme cases.

West Bengal suffers a double whammy of high level of fluorosis and arsenic in groundwater. East and West Burdwan, Malda, Hooghly, Howrah, Murshidabad, Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas districts reel under arsenic problem.

Official figures, see below, are gross under-estimations for two reasons: They take 1.5 mg/lit as the criterion while 0.5 mg is recommended by an international conference on fluorosis. The data, with all limitations notorious in govt. functioniong, refers to areas surveyed by them.

They  claim, see below, they are addressing the problem. More than 20 years after fluorosis was taken up “seriously,” 2017 data show piped water supplies are meant for less than half of the affected, except in Malda where 58% coverage is claimed. Field reports show many schemes are more on paper than grounded. Often, for lack of proper and continued maintenance, many schemes are stuck up within a short time. Lack of funds, power, and man power are plaguing the implementation, more so because the victims are mostly the poorer and neglected  populations. Social factors like caste (SC) segregation in villages are also adversely affecting the reach as noticed by FMRRC in field studies.  See official data below:

For lack of ready cash (often water is priced at Rs. 5 or so per 20 litres), of knowledge and distances (of water points) involved, many fetch safe water only for drinking, and not for cooking, the latter being more in quantity. Fluoride, unlike microbial contaminatuion, is not removed while cooking; in fact, being a dissolved matter, its level  is raised after boiling.  

Water treatment plants installed by the government do not function, leaving villagers to drink contaminated water (Photo: Gurvinder Singh)

The apathy of the administration could be gauged by the fact that the water treatment plant installed in Kadihat Belbari High School of Gangarampur has been defunct. “It has not been functioning for the past several months and nobody from the administration has come to check it,” said an employee of the school. “We have no alternative but to drink the contaminated water.”

Mandal, through Dishari Sankolpo, a non-governmental organization working on environmental issues, has been trying to create awareness about fluorosis. “We educate children and also the parents, about timely treatment,” said Mandal.

Groundwater, extracted from tube wells, is the only source of drinking water. Villagers, complain that most of the government projects are only on paper.

“Though it will take time to see the impact of our awareness programs, people have started demanding the administration for purified water,” said Mandal.

Dey said that the fluoride level is seven times more than permissible limit. “We distribute calcium tablets to the poor to deal with the disease as it leads to severe skeletal deformity,” he said. “The Public Health Engineering department is working on a project of nearly Rs 300 crore to provide potable water to the villagers, but it would take another two years for the work to be completed.”

We need fluoride intake of 0.6 mg per liter, but anything above that level is harmful,” said Sukumar Dey, Chief Medical Officer of Dakshin Dinajpur. “In a study done in two high schools in Nandanpur and Jahangirpur panchayats, we found that 97% of the students were affected by dental fluorosis,” he said. “The older generation suffers from skeletal fluorosis, but there are no statistics.”

“Days are not far when the state government would have to take serious measures like it did with arsenic contamination, to tackle fluorosis,” said Raju Biswas, secretary of the West Bengal chapter of Indian Dental Association.

The above are extracts on ground realities are taken  from an article that  was first published in Village Square.in,Nov 23, 2018. https://www.villagesquare.in/2018/11/23/fluorosis-extracts-a-toll-in-rural-bengal/

FMRRC has seen, in Karnataka, how many RO plants launched with fanfare, and huge budgets pushed by RO lobbies,  remain in disrepair soon after for want of  proper repairs and maintenance.

The data is taken from official sources mentioned therein.

Fluorosis is a disease, we noted, that threatens 10 crore people in over 335 districts of around 30 states of India. It was around 6 crore people in around 220 districts earlier. With no steps taken, the figures shot up.

Despite such grave situation, even doctors are not well informed, as noticed by FMRRC, because the MBBS syllabus has no emphasis about it. ‘Our text books are mostly copy-paste work from US and UK,’ commented Padma Vibhushan Dr. BM Hegde. Nor doctors have updated knowledge . It is a poorman’s disease we are not bothered about, commented  Dr. D. Raji Reddy, former director of NIMS Hyderabad, who was a pioneer in Fluorosis research. These facts were mentioned and agreed by many experts, once again in a recent national webinar on Fluorosis conducted by Kolar’s SDU Medical college in the first week of March this year. Dr. Bapuji and Prof KS Sharma, both of FMRRC, and Prof. Jitendra Ingole of Pune Medical college, were among the key speakers. Ingole was working on a syllabus for medical students.

Field Studies by FMRRC, presented at several fora, found that “painful and debilitating conditions” occur at much lower levels, even at 0.7 mg, not to speak of the officially permissible level of 1.5 mg/litre. All data on  fluorosis is based on the basis of 1.5 mg/litre, and hence a gross under-estimation.

Pain tablets (NSAIDs) are indiscriminately prescribed and consumed for years, FMRRC noted, and CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) is one of the results, thousands being down with it. Dialysis centres are thriving in such areas.

In India, there is no need for any fluoride intake, asserted Dr. AK Susheela, former professor at AIIMS, Delhi, internationally renowned expert on fluorosis. Fluorosis is not irreversible, as believed by doctors. Studies are there to show it can be stopped, even reversed, with safe water and good nutrition.

Child from Jhabua (MP) recovers from  skeletal fluorosis  in  3 years by giving no more than  good water and nutrition. See the legs year after year. Unicef (1999) and doctors say it is untreatable and irreversible. There are more cases, also of adults elsewhere, of  stopping  and reversing the damage.

 (Courtesy : FKAN, Inrem Gujarat , with whom  FMRRC has been working together.)

Though Nalgonda was highlighted for fluorosis, much of Telangana was ridden with the problem, as also 335 districts across India.  Nalgonda’s real significance was that it pioneered a sustained mass movement on the issue, going upto Delhi. That moved the polity and led to positive developments. Piped surface water to every doorstep was promised by TRS in 2014 polls…it said ‘don’t vote to us next time if we do not implement it’ and TRS won.

FMRRC in a report of May 10, 2018 said:

“The new Telangana State (TS) government, post-bifurcation of AP in 2014,  made certain tangible commitments on the fluorosis question in particular, on drinking water in general. Its Mission Bhagiratha is a project for safe drinking water for every village and city household in Telangana State, with a budget of Rs. 43,791 crores. The project aims is to provide piped water to 2.32 crore people in 20 lakh households in urban and 60 lakhs in rural areas of Telangana. The ambitious project will supply clean drinking water to all households in the state through water sourced from River Godavari (22 TMC) and River Krishna (19 TMC). The works will be completed by December 2018. Hectic work has been going on.

The problem, however, does not end with provision of drinking water. The villagers consume rice, vegetables and fruits grown on water polluted with fluorine and the government’s next plan is to provide canal irrigation from rivers, and to improve ground water table, by repairing all tanks and  lakes.  It is a good beginning.

“New operational manuals for all irrigation projects and reservoirs in the State and setting up of Drinking Water Front of Telangana and Power Front of Telangana are among the slew of initiatives announced by TS Government. The Chief Minister on  29th Aug 2017  announced the measures at a crucial high level joint review. Drinking water supply would be top priority followed by irrigation, and industrial needs and power generation. He wanted the officials to establish a system for real-time monitoring of water availability in each project and follow instructions from the State headquarters to release water for various purposes.  The Chief Minister asserted that at least 10 per cent water should be reserved for drinking water needs..”

Today much of what was promised above was implemented in TS, thanks to the mass movement, and Fluorosis is mitigated to a significant degree.  

Based on various experiences and field studies, drawn from Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and with its humble efforts, FMRRC,   devised a program of SEAM, ie., sensitize, educate, agitate, mobilize,  on drinking water.  It has called for a movement for drinking water as a Fundamental Right. It had submitted a memorandum (in Feb 2015) to the NHRC with the demand, but there was no response.

For more on fluorosis, see FMRRC’s articles in countercurrents.org, including Socio-Political and Economic Aspects Of Fluorosis.

https://countercurrents.org/2017/04/socio-political-and-economic-aspects-of-fluorosis/

Fluorosis: A Problem of Serious  Dimensions, But Neglected By All Political  Parties

https://countercurrents.org/2018/05/fluorosis-a-problem-of-serious-dimensions-but-neglected-by-all-political-parties/

***                        ***

Arsenic, a dangerous contaminant in drinking water, in Bengal and Assam   

Different skin symptoms due to arsenic toxicity: (a) diffuse melanosis; (b) spotted melanosis; (c) leucomelanosis; (d) tongue melanosis; (e) diffused and nodular keratosis on the palm; (f) spotted keratosis on the sole; and (g) dorsal keratosis.

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Different-skin-symptoms-due-to-arsenic-toxicity-a-diffuse-melanosis-b-spotted_fig1_322668037

More than 70 million Indians are affected by Arsenicosis, as per official reports. The data is an under-statement though.

Key facts about Arsenic as per WHO

Arsenic is highly toxic, carcinogenic, and the most important action in affected communities is the prevention of further exposure to arsenic by provision of a safe water supply, says WHO: 

 Arsenic is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater of a number of countries.

  Arsenic is highly toxic in its inorganic form. In addition to skin cancer, long-term exposure to arsenic may also cause cancers of the bladder and lungs.

  Contaminated water used for drinking, food preparation and irrigation of food crops poses the greatest threat to public health from arsenic.

  Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions. It has also been associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In utero and early childhood exposure has been linked to negative impacts on cognitive development and increased deaths in young adults.

  The most important action in affected communities is the prevention of further exposure to arsenic by provision of a safe water supply. The most important action in affected communities is the prevention of further exposure to arsenic by the provision of a safe water supply for drinking, food preparation and irrigation of food crops.

Fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, dairy products and cereals can also be dietary sources of arsenic, although exposure from these foods is generally much lower compared to exposure through contaminated groundwater. In seafood, arsenic is mainly found in its less toxic organic form.

Industrial processes  : Arsenic is used industrially as an alloying agent, as well as in the processing of glass, pigments, textiles, paper, metal adhesives, wood preservatives and ammunition. Arsenic is also used in the hide tanning process and, to a limited extent, in pesticides, feed additives and pharmaceuticals.

Tobacco : People who smoke tobacco can also be exposed to the natural inorganic arsenic content of tobacco because tobacco plants can take up arsenic naturally present in the soil. Also, in the past, the potential for elevated arsenic exposure was much greater when tobacco plants used to be treated with lead arsenate insecticide.

Health effects

Inorganic arsenic is a confirmed carcinogen and is the most significant chemical contaminant in drinking-water globally... Arsenic can also occur in an organic form. Inorganic arsenic compounds (such as those found in water) are highly toxic while organic arsenic compounds (such as those found in seafood) are less harmful to health.

Long-term effects : The first symptoms of long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic (for example, through drinking-water and food) are usually observed in the skin, and include pigmentation changes, skin lesions and hard patches on the palms and soles of the feet (hyperkeratosis). These occur after a minimum exposure of approximately five years and may be a precursor to skin cancer.

In addition to skin cancer, long-term exposure to arsenic may also cause cancers of the bladder and lungs. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified arsenic and arsenic compounds as carcinogenic to humans, and has also stated that arsenic in drinking-water is carcinogenic to humans.

Other adverse health effects that may be associated with long-term ingestion of inorganic arsenic include developmental effects, diabetes, pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease. Arsenic-Arsenic- induced myocardial infarction, in particular, can be a significant cause of excess mortality.

Arsenic is also associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes and infant mortality, with impacts on child health (1), and exposure in utero and in early childhood has been linked to increases in mortality in young adults due to multiple cancers, lung disease, heart attacks, and kidney failure (2). Numerous studies have demonstrated negative impacts of arsenic exposure on cognitive development, intelligence, and memory (3).

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/arsenic

Through drinking water, more than 200 million people globally are exposed to higher than safe levels of arsenic. The areas most affected are Bangladesh and West Bengal.

Arsenic is related to heart disease, (hypertension-related cardiovascular disease), cancer, stroke (cerebrovascular diseases), chronic lower respiratory diseases, and diabetes.

Chronic exposure to arsenic is related to vitamin A deficiency, which is related to heart disease and night blindness. (Wikipedia)

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A Serious problem in Ganga-Brahmaputra Basin, Bengal and Assam

Arsenicosis is a serious problem, but not much in South India.  FMRRC has limited knowledge about it, and had occasion to see a few cases of Arsenicosis in Yadgir dt of Karnataka. We therefore confine to official reports.

The Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation estimates that, as of August 2016, 14,180 habitations in India are arsenic-affected (10 μg/L), impacting some 12.9 million people across 11 states (Integrated Management Information System, Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation).

An unofficial report says: Bengal suffers a double whammy of high level of fluorosis and arsenic in groundwater. East and West Burdwan, Malda, Hooghly, Howrah, Murshidabad, Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas districts reel under arsenic problem.

For Arsenic in drinking water, the above-cited official report about Bengal says:

“According to BIS 10500:2012,5 specifications for drinking-water standards (revised in 2015), the permissible limit for arsenic in water used for human consumption is 10 μg/L, superseding an earlier limit of 50 μg/L.

“Statistics reported for arsenic exceedances and exposure in Indian groundwater are, therefore, often mixed, with a large proportion of older reports citing the higher value.

“Statistics for exceedances also vary substantially with the amount of testing and implementation of mitigation. As such, it is difficult to assess exposure estimates accurately at a given time or scale, especially using different databases.”

The same applies to Fluoride and Fluorosis also. It mentions “fluoride concentrations above the 1.5 mg/L WHO guideline value (Edmunds and Smedley, 2013).” Problems arise even with 0.5 mg/lit.

About Arsenicosis, the Report says:

Arsenic Hot Spots  In Ground Water In India is an official report of Central Ground Water Board, CGWB, which has the following details:

The occurrence of Arsenic in ground water was first reported in 1980 in West Bengal in India, but no serious steps are taken to supply safe drinking water to the people. (http://cgwb.gov.in/WQ/ARSENIC.pdf)

The CGWB says:

“ In West Bengal, 79 blocks in 8 districts have Arsenic beyond the permissible limit of 0.01 mg/L. About 16 million people are in risk zone. The most affected districts are on the eastern side of Bhagirathi river in the districts of Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas and western side of the districts of Howrah, Hugli and Bardhman.”

Other reports say East and West Burdwan also affected.

List of districts and blocks with High Arsenic in Ground Water of West Bengal (Table 2) :

Malda:  English Bazar, Manickchak, Kaliachak I ,II&III,  Ratua and I and II

Murshidabad : RaninagarI&II, Domkal,Nowda, Jalangi, Hariharpara, Suti I&II Bhagwangola I & II, Beldanga I&II, Berhampur, Raghunathganj I & II, Farakka, Lalgola andSatshahganj

Nadia:  Karimpur I&II, Tehatta I &II, Kaliganj, Nawadwip, Haringhata, Chakda, Santipur,Naksipara,Hanskhali, Krishnaganj, Chapra, RanaghatI&II,KrishnanagarI&II

North 24 Parganas : Habra I & II, Barasat I & II, Rajarhat, Deganga, Beduria, Gaighata, Amdanga, Bagda , Boangaon, Haroa, Hasnabad, Basirhat I & II, Swarupnagar, Barackpur I & II, Sandeshkhali II

South 24 Parganas:  Baraipur, Sonarpur, Bhangar I & II, Joynagar I, Bishnupur I & II, Mograhat II, Budge Budge II

Bardhman:  Purbasthali I & II, Katwa I & II and Kala II

Haora :  Uluberia II and Shampur I

Hugli : Balagarh

222 locations from these 8 districts are listed. Topping the list are Nadia with 109 locations, and Murshidabad with 45, North 24-Paraganas 30, and Malda 23. 

Out of the above, six Districts having very high, dangerous, levels of Arsenic (>0.05mg/litre) in Ground Water are separately listed:

Hooghly , Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, North 24 Parganas, South 24 pargana.

82 locations are listed under this category, including more than 30 with more than 0.1 mg/lit.

North 24 Pargana has Jatragachi (Rajarhat) topping with 0.761. In Malda dt., Sujapur (Kaliachak I) has 0.402 ,and in Murshidabad dt. Swaruppur (Hariharpara) has 0.405.

Apart from West Bengal, Arsenic contamination in ground water has been found in the states of Bihar, Assam , Chhatisgarh and Uttar Pradesh. Arsenic in ground water has been reported in 12 districts In Bihar, 5 districts in U.P and one district in Chhatisgarh. The occurrence of Arsenic in the states of Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh is in Alluvium formation but in the state of Chhatisgarh, it is in the volcanics exclusively confined to N-S trending Dongargarh-Kotri ancient rift zone.

Occurrence of very high levels of Arsenic ((>0.05mg/litre) in ground water is reported in three districts  of Assam :

Nagaon: Nagaon, Gomotha         0.055

Cachar: Cachar, Moinarbond      0.065

Jorhat: Jorhat, Tipamia,               0.1467

The remedial options available for getting Arsenic free water are

  1. Development of ground water from Arsenic free aquifers.
  2. Piped water supply from surface water sources.
  3. Dilution of ground water with surface water.
  4. Treatment of ground water for removal of arsenic using adsorption (Activated alumina /Granulated ferric hydrated oxide) or precipitation and coagulation technique.
  5. Rain water harvesting.

The above steps should not be difficult for a nuclear power India, aspiring to be a world power. But callousness towards people’s needs is the order of the day.

For more see Arsenic Hot Spots  In Ground Water In India

http://cgwb.gov.in/WQ/ARSENIC.pdf

List of Assam Districts and locations  having As > 0.01mg/litre.

  1. Golaghat, Golaghat 0.01

2.Jorhat,  Bijay Nagar 0.01

3.Jorhat , Kolakhowa 0.02

  1. Lakhimpur, Bhogpur Charali 0.02
  2. Lakhimpur, Mori Dirgha 0.04
  3. Nagaon, Bichamari 0.02
  4. Nagaon, Ghasibasti 0.01
  5. Nalbari , Tamulpur 0.02
  6. Sibsagar, , Bandarmari 0.02
  7. Sibsagar, Sapekhati 0.02
  8. Sonitpur, Gohpur New 0.01

http://cgwb.gov.in/WQ/ARSENIC.pdf

We conclude this section with an extract from a paper, Groundwater Arsenic Contamination in the Ganga River Basin: A Future Health Danger, January 2018, in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. (Dipankar Chakraborti et al)

“…unsustainable arsenic mitigation programs have aggravated the arsenic calamity in the GRB-Ganga River Basin,  and put millions of lives in danger. This alarming situation resembles a ticking time bomb. We feel that after 29 years of arsenic research in the GRB, we have seen the tip of the iceberg with respect to the actual magnitude of the catastrophe; thus, a reduced arsenic standard for drinking water, testing all available drinking water sources, and sustainable and cost-effective arsenic mitigation programs that include the participation of the people are urgently needed.”

***

This is the tragic story  of Bengal and Assam where basic need for safe potable drinking water  is unmet after 70 years of independence. Tens of millions of people are admittedly affected. But these issues are not highlighted in the election campaign by any party or leader including Modi and Mamata. What kind of democracy is this?

People need to realize …SEAM – Sensitize, Educate, Agitate, And Mobilize, is the answer. A mass movement for safe,potable, and  adequate drinking water as a Fundamental Right is the need of the hour.

( FMRRC, Fluorosis Mitigation Research and Resource Centre, based in Hubli, Karnataka, is a small group with Dr. KS Sharma as its Founder- Chairman, and Dr. M. Bapuji, Senior Scientist Ex-CSIR as its Scintific Advisor. It is not an NGO, but is part of a larger mass movement of workers (IRTUC)  and rural poor, ( Krantikari Janandolana) of Karnataka.

About M.Bapuji: born 1948. Basically Ph.D in organic chemistry, he guided six to Ph.D in varied cross disciplinary subjects. Was a resource person for a UNICEF meet on fluorosis. Published scores of papers, has 6 Patents, transferred 9 technologies to industry, stopped imports of some chemicals by import substitution. Associated with several universities and one IIT. Discovered a 80km-long ridge reef off Odisha coast, reported about 140 sponges, corals etc for the first time from this reef. Established lab for microbes associated with sedentary fauna. General Secretary (3 yrs) and President (3 yrs) for All India CSIR Scientific Workers’ Association (SWA). Working on improvement of tribal schools, education, labs, faculty in W.Godavari dt(AP).
For more info Email to : bapujim@gmail.com and  kuvalaya_hubli @rediffmail.com


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