Fluoride content in water is beyond permissible limit in nearly 17 out of Chhattisgarh’s 27 districts.
However, the arsenic content is high in only one district, according to the data on water quality scenario provided by state’s Public Health Engineering Department during the ongoing Monsoon session of the Assembly.
The districts having excessive water fluoride content are Gariyaband, Dhamtari, Mahasamund, Durg, Balod, Bemetara, Kabirdham, Bastar, Bijapur, Kanker, Kondagaon, Korba, Raigarh, Surguja, Balrampur, Surajpur and Koriya, while only in Rajnandgaon arsenic content is reported to be high.
“In these districts, out of 909 fluoride affected sources of water, Fluoride Removal Plants have been set up at 478 spots while 390 borewells have been closed down. Besides, the fluoride affected water of 39 hand pumps in Kondagaon district and two in Gariyaband are not being used for drinking purpose,” the data mentioned.
As of April 1, 2015, the department has set a target to provide clean drinking water in fluoride affected 78 hamlets and villages, it said.
In Rajnandagon, 32 hand-pumps in 11 villages were closed down after detection of arsenic content beyond the permissible limit in ground water.
Clean drinking water is being provided in the affected villages under ‘Nal Jal Yojna’ and others, it said.
Meanwhile, a geologist said high arsenic and fluoride content is a natural occurrence and is not a result of mining.
“It has nothing to do with external source of contamination. Arsenic and fluoride concentration are high in water in those districts because of the nature of rocks found there,” Geology Professor Ninad Bodhankar, Pt Ravishankar Shukla University Raipur said.
“In earth science, we often consider occurrence of these minerals as good indicators. Like arsenic indicates gold deposits. There are reports of occurrence of gold in Kotri river which flows through Rajnandgaon,” he said.
At the same time, he also pointed out that excessive consumption (for irrigation, mining and other purposes) of ground water leads to contamination of harmful minerals in it through rocks.
“We have seen displacement for construction of dams and setting up big projects, but the days are not far when we will have to re-settle people from these areas (where arsenic and fluoride content is high) for their better life and future,” Bodhankar said.
However, he feels it is necessary to take precautions.
“We have to take precaution to prevent health hazards of high minerals’ content in water, like detection of safe zones for digging borewells and hand pumps are some of the steps to be taken up. A hydrological investigation is needed to deal with the situation,” he suggested.
Besides, a proper planning is needed on the part of government as mineral (harmful) removal plants have been installed, but they need proper timely maintenance.
Even the people should be made aware of proper use of mineral removal plants so that they realise the importance of clean drinking water for their children and family, he said.
The Central Ground Water Board and state government are jointly taking several steps in this direction, he added.
However, expressing a different point of view, an environment activist says “rampant mining activities” also contributes towards contaminating ground and open sources of water in Chhattisgarh.
“The several reasons for high content of fluoride and arsenic in water also include rampant mining and excessive consumption,” said Gautam Bandopadhyay, who works for river conservation in the state.
“The government has to seriously look into all these aspects to provide clean and safe water to people as well as prevent water sources from contamination,” he added.