High fluoride content in groundwater of Bakel village in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh has caught the eye of the authorities in the region after several tribals including children fell ill and developed bone diseases following consumption of water from hand pumps.

According to official sources, excess fluoride levels in drinking water, drawn from hand pumps has severely effected the health of the tribal populace including children in this village, with a rise in cases of bone weakness and skeletal deformities.

Following this, ten hand pumps found to have water with elevated fluoride content, out of the total 32 installed in eight areas of the village, have been sealed and five officials have been suspended in this connection, they said.

While 13 hand pumps provide water all year round to the village with a population of more than 2,000 people, 16 hand pumps are working partially and three others have gone dry, officials said.

Bastar Medical Officer Dr Abdul Rashid said consumption of water with fluoride concentration over a long period of time has adversely affected the bone quality and strength of several people in Kankarguda, Amliguda and Dongarkod mohallas of the village, where these hand pumps were sealed.

According to Rashid and S K Chandra, Executive Engineer, Public Health department, fluoride levels beyond the permissible limit of one ppm (part per million) in drinking water increases the risk of bone stiffness, skeletal fluorosis and other dental problems.

Water from the ten sealed hand pumps were found to contain more than one ppm of fluoride and their samples have been sent to laboratories in Durg and Nagpur-based National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), they said.

PHE minister Kedar Kashyap said arrangements have been made to treat those affected by the excessive exposure to fluoride in water and officials have been issued directions in this regard.

Meanwhile, Bastar Collector has ordered an enquiry into the issue and has asked officials to probe the steps taken by the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department and panchayat members to deal with the problem.

He has also issued orders for examination of water from hand pumps in the region.

The suspended officials comprise three from PHE and two from Health department.