GUWAHATI, March 10 – Fluoride contamination of the drinking water supplied by the Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department through hand pumps has crippled around 4,000 people in Tapatjuri, Dikharumukh and Nijparakhowa villages of Haladhiati area under Akashi Ganga Gaon Panchayat in Nagaon district, alleged a Kampur-based environment group Environment Conservation Centre.
The environment group has further alleged that the PHE Department had found fluoride contamination of the groundwater of these villages between 9 (parts per million) ppm and 15 ppm about 13 years back. But despite such findings, the Department has been supplying untreated groundwater to the residents of these villages through its water supply schemes, secretary of the environment group Dharani Saikia alleged.
The Pollution Control Board, Assam (PCBA) found fluoride contamination of the groundwater of these water supply schemes through a scanning done in February last. The PCBA scanning also revealed that even the plants and vegetables grown in these villages have absorbed excess fluoride.
Consumption of the contaminated water supplied by the PHE Department has crippled 20 children below three years of age, 120 children in the age group of 3 to 7 years and over 500 children in the age group of 7 to 15 years. Many elderly persons have also bent down. In all, around 4,000 people belonging to 540 families are crippled under the impact of the excess fluoride they are made to consume by the Department.
Several of the residents of these villages have got their hands or legs bent. Several others are made dependent on crutches, while the youths of 25 years of age are now so burdened by this poison that any one will treat them for the 70 year-old persons. The overall atmosphere in these villages is such that a stranger would find the people there to be aliens from some other planets, Saikia said.
Significantly, the National Highway-36 runs through these villages. Moreover, the State has been implementing schemes under the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis since 2006. But, such schemes have not benefited the people of these villages, Saikia alleged.
Saikia demanded adequate compensation to the flourosis victims of these villages, besides their medical treatment and rehabilitation. It further called for steps to supply safe drinking water to these villages and for the purpose, the Urdhagaon Water Supply Scheme should be strengthened and a new drinking water scheme should be taken up using the Jamuna river water, he said.
Meanwhile, Akashi Ganga Gaon Panchayat president Nur Mohammad told this newspaper that PHE Minister Gautam Roy visited the area on March 9 and met the affected people. The Minister handed over an amount of Rs 1.5 lakh for the benefit of the flourosis victims and assured steps to send a team of doctors to these villages, besides a safe drinking water scheme for these villages, Mohammad said.