Awareness and prevention against cases of fluorosis and arsenicosis can be the ideal safeguard against them, medical officers of the State were told by experts on the medical conditions.
Doctors from fluoride and arsenic affected districts of Jharkhand congregated for a ‘training of trainers’ session, a part of joint action plan for such districts, organised jointly by the State health department and drinking water and sanitation department in collaboration with UNICEF and Yugantar Bharati.
During the two-day training session, includes presentations from fluorosis expert Dr Srinivas Chekuri and arsenicosis expert Dr Kunal Kanti Mazumdar, and a field visit to Palamu, where cases of fluorosis are the highest, for assessing the situation.
Giving a statistical insight of the scenario, Drinking Water and Sanitation Department Director Kallol Saha said, “In our surveys, it was seen that 134 habitats, mostly from Sahibganj, showed arsenic contamination of drinking water during 2014-15. Alarmingly, arsenic poisoning through drinking water is not even officially acknowledged in Sahibganj, it goes unmentioned in official records, even though the problem do persist in the district.”
He added, “Regarding fluorosis, Jharkhand has 813 villages affected by the disease, with Palamu having the highest number at 172, followed by Garhwa with 151 villages. The worst-hit districts, apart from these two are Hazaribagh, Ranchi, Sahibganj and Pakur.”
Principal Secretary of Health K Vidyasagar stated, “Even Supreme Court and National Human Rights Commission are also monitoring the rise in fluorosis cases in state. The State Health Department and Drinking Water and Sanitation Department will have to work hand in hand if we are to put an end to fluorosis and arsenicosis.”
The Principal Secretary also expressed his wishes to ensure that the training imparted to officials during the two-day workshop is utilised to the fullest.
“Officials trained here will not be transferred to areas unaffected by fluoride and arsenic, and if they have to be, they will be relocated to another programme area under the joint action plan. This arrangement will be followed so that this training is not wasted on areas where it is not required,” Vidyasagar said.
“Focus should be on prevention so as to check the problem of fluorosis and arsenic poisoning before it turns grave. For this, we will soon be setting up water treatment plants in Palamu and Sahibganj. Another aspect of it should be sensitising the masses about the contamination and its consequences,” said the State UNICEF WASH Specialist.