The Union Cabinet today gave its approval to the proposal for establishing the International Centre for Drinking Water Quality in Kolkata. The Centre will be registered as a Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, with the requisite manpower, building and support infrastructure.
The basic aim of the Centre is to work in the area of identification, mitigation and management with focus on research and development on drinking water quality related problems in India (both urban and rural) with a focus among other contaminants, also on arsenic and fluoride. The Centre will also provide policy advice on request to the Central and State Governments as also to other countries on demand on water quality issues.
The Centre will benefit the entire population of the country through provision of safe and quality drinking water. All States/ districts in the country will be covered as bacteriological contamination is more or less evenly spread and focus will also be made on drinking water quality affected habitations in the States/districts.
The total cost of the project will be Rs 176.64 crore. The entire expenditure will be met out of the funds provided to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation under the Centrally sponsored National Rural Drinking Water Programme.
The Centre is to be established on 8.72 acres of land at Joka, Diamond Harbour Road, Kolkata earmarked for the purpose by the Government of West Bengal.
Rural drinking water supply is affected with various water quality problems in drinking water sources like excess arsenic, fluoride, iron, salinity (total dissolved solids/chloride), nitrate, etc. Newer problems like Japanese Encephalitis/Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (JE/AES), uranium, selenium, free silica, aluminum, chromium, pesticides are also becoming a challenge in providing safe drinking water to citizens. As on 01.04.2012, there were more than 1 lakh water quality affected habitations with a population of 5.05 crore in the country which were yet to be provided with safe drinking water.
Excess fluoride is reported by 19 States with an affected population of about 1.12 crore. Excess arsenic is reported by 7 States with an affected population of about 46 lakh. Iron contamination is fairly wide spread with an affected population of 2.20 crore. Population at risk due to salinity and nitrate problems are 86 lakh and 33 lakh respectively. Prolonged consumption of arsenic may lead to arsenicosis (keratosis and melanosis) while fluoride may cause dental, skeletal and soft tissue fluorosis. Consumption of excess nitrate over a longer period may lead to blue baby syndrome. Salinity and iron in water imparts an unacceptable taste to water. In many places, 100 percent testing of all drinking water sources is not being done and therefore, the dimension of water quality problems may be greater.