NAGPUR: While Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) continues to claim that people in as many as 454 villages in Yavatmal district are being forced to consume fluoride affected water for years the officials of the state water supply and sanitation department maintain that corrective measures have been taken in all but 49 villages.
The VJAS president Kishor Tiwari said that at least 30-40 villages each in Yavatmal, Umarkhed, Kelapur, Wani, Zari, Ghatanji, Arni, Digras, Darwah and Ralegaon talukas are suffering from various forms of fluorosis due to regular consumption of fluoride rich water.
He claims that none of the de-fluoridation units set up by government were functional. Also, the claims of government of supplying water from surface water sources were false, he said.
State government had agreed to make the entire district fluoride free in 2001 following some deaths in Mangi Kolampodawar.
A team of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had visited Yavatmal and surveyed the villages following that the union government had released funds under UNICEF for setting up of tap water schemes and defluoridation plants.
“As of now, there are no functional units. The ground water has been exhausted for saving the crops by farmers. There is no fresh water left. It is only during rainy season that good water is available. You can’t say based on water quality in September that the water is good all year round. Water is not just contaminated with fluoride but also many other elements like arsenic, iron etc,” he said.
Two years back, the Maharashtra chief secretary M Rameshkumar had visited the district and promised clean and potable water for the residents in affected villages but things haven’t changed much, Tiwari added.
The executive engineer of water supply and sanitation department at Yavatmal K P Umalkar maintained that the government had done its job well.
“We have set up tap water and dug well water supply in 405 villages so far. Process for alternative water supply was on in remaining 49 villages. These are not through borewells that would bring contaminated water. We have also set up 30 deflouridation units recently and all of them are functional. The project is being implemented by the state government with financial support from UNICEF,” he said.
As per government information, a survey was conducted in 9,798 villages in Maharashtra having fluoride, iron or nitrates or all of them as contaminants.
It was noticed that 1,758 villages were fluoride affected in the state. Of these, 1011 were in Vidarbha alone. There was no village in Akola, Amravati, Wardha, Buldhana and Washim districts.
All affected villages are in Gondia (22), Bhandara (139), Chandrapur (240), Gadchiroli (34) and Nagpur districts. Recently a village in Akola district and one in Nagpur district were given a defluoridation unit when water was found contaminated there, Umalkar added.