NEW DELHI: Cheap ration — like rice at Re 1 per kg — is a common poll slogan of political parties in various states in election mode, but politicians appear unconcerned about providing safe drinking water to crores of villagers, in the grip of dreaded diseases like fluorosis, arsenic lesions and nitrate poisoning.
In a startling disclosure, the Centre told the SC in a recent affidavit that a majority of people living in 2.17 lakh villages were facing serious problem as their drinking water sources were polluted by chemicals.
“Under rural drinking water supply, the survey done indicated that there are 216,968 rural habitation affected by poor water quality — fluoride affected 31,306 villages, salinity affected 23,495, iron affected 118,088, arsenic affected 5,029, nitrate affected 13,958 and multiple factors affected 25,092,” said the affidavit filed by health ministry.
Take for example the 31,306 villages affected by excess amount of fluoride in drinking water. This causes a dreaded and incurable disease fluorosis in human beings and animals which leads to mottled teeth, dental carries, stiffened brittle bones and joints, metabolic disorders and even paralysis in advanced stage.
Majority of these villages fall in Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. The Centre assured the Supreme Court in just one line: “The government is giving emphasis for tackling water quality problem.” “Up to 20% funds of the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARSWP) are specifically earmarked for tackling water quality problems,” the ministry said. It informed the court that under ‘Bharat Nirman’ scheme, a plan was afoot to build rural infrastructure in four years time. “Rural drinking water is one of the components of the said plan and under this, it is envisaged to address the problem of quality of water,” it added.
The dreaded arsenic poisoning of drinking water sources is acute in West Bengal and also prevalent in UP, Madhya Pradesh and Assam, where surveys have identified people suffering from arsenic lesions.