Tragedy has struck many a family in the Bakhari and Chukru, village of Jharkhand’s Daltanganj district, where excess fluoride in water has left several with severe physical deformities and even paralyzed some.
Bakhari village, situated about 20 km from the district headquarters, has a population of nearly 700, comprising mostly tribals and members of socially underprivileged groups. Two-thirds of the villagers have reportedly developed physical deformities as all the sources of drinking water in Bakhari have excess fluoride content.
Residents of the remote village of Chukru, are experiencing various physical disabilities due to the presence of excessive fluoride in the ground water of the area. Every second person – children as well as adults – is suffering from deformed limbs, cataract, or premature ageing. Fluorosis hit the village in 1980 when the Government constructed borewells here to solve the drinking water problem of the village. A boon soon became a curse.
Bakhari residents draw water from 30 wells and six hand pumps in the village, all of which have excess fluoride. Without alternative sources of water, they are forced to continue using water from the contaminated wells and pumps.
According to sources in the Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan, district of Jharkhand fluoride and iron have been detected above the permissible limit in underground water in some areas.
According to the recent report people especially tribal consuming Chakwad (ring worm plant) plant are less affected of fluoride toxicity. Chakwad plants are consumed by the local tribal people in believe that it keep them healthy. Without knowing that it is also helping them to minimize fluoride contamination they regularly eat Chakwad plant with other daily foods. According to the report those people who are not eating this plant are more affected with fluorosis. In Madhya Pradesh, the promotion of Chakwad (Cassia tora), which is rich in calcium, has helped mitigate the disease.
Main cause behind this effect is the presence of high calcium in this plant. Calcium , binds fluorine –assisting in safe excretion of fluorine, and also helping replenish body calcium stores depleted by fluorine.
It is similar to Stellaria spp. (common chickweed) which is generally used as a tea. This plant, a common garden weed which is edible in apparently unlimited quantities without toxic effect. It can be used as a vegetable and in green drinks. It is rich in Vitamin. C and in minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Other Calcium-rich herbs include nettle, sage, chickweed, red clover, comfrey leaf, and raspberry leaf. A tasty infusion of any one or a combination of these herbs every day should be taken.
According to the different research reports, to minimize fluoride in the body one should eat plenty of foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D. Good sources of easily assimilable calcium include broccoli, chestnuts, clams, dandelion greens, most dark green leafy vegetable (see above), flounder, hazelnuts, kelp, molasses, oats, oysters, salmon, sardines (with the bones), sea vegetables, sesame seeds, shrimp, soybeans, tahini (sesame butter), tofu, and wheat germ. Include garlic and onions in the diet.
The Chakwad plants are very common in Jharkhand. People are not aware of the quality of these plants of minimising fluoride from the body.
Chakwad plant is found in warm moist climatic conditions and is generally found in tropical region where sun rays fall directly, it is also seen in areas where rains are in excess. It is found everywhere in India especially middle and south India.
It is an annual small plant that attains a maximum height of 1 to 5 feet. Seed contains rhein, aloe-emodin and chrysophanol. It also contains nearly 7% resins. There is also certain minerals like calcium, iron and phosphorus.
It also acts in skin ailment. It also acts as nerve tonic, liver stimulant and heart tonic. It acts on cholesterol thus maintaining the normal level of cholesterol. It also act as curing the infection occurring in the body and is given in worm infestation.
Jharkhand Government should promote such types plants in Fluoride affected areas.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi is a geologist working on different issues related to geology and environment in Jharkhand State of India.
Presently working as Lecturer in Department of Environment and Water Management, Ranchi University, India.