KOLAR: Barely 70 km from the hi-tech city of Bangalore lies Kolar where more than 80 per cent of the children in the age-group of 6-14 suffer from skeletal and severe dental fluorosis.
Reason: The water they consume has excess fluoride which has weakened their hands and legs.
Worse, in Kolar, all villages depend on ground water for their domestic and other requirements. Epidemiological survey has revealed that over 26,000 people suffer from dental and skeletal fluorosis and more than 39,000 people are prone to it.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), fluoride level in water should be within 1.5 mg/L. But the fluoride concentration in ground water in Kolar ranges from 2.8 to 4.3 mg/L, which is far above the permissible levels, according to government officials.
Eleven-year-old Srikanta sits and stands with difficulty and cannot keep his feet firmly on the ground because he has severe joint pain. So is the case with 13-year-old Sahana at Nallacheravu village in Bagapalli taluk, who is irregular to school, because she suffers from severe joint pain and cannot walk.
Sadly, she continues to drink the fluoride-affected water because the de-fluoridation tank in her village is defunct.
According to doctors and water quality experts, fluoride affects the system slowly and accumulates in the joints and weakens it in the long run. “It is not like cough or fever which is momentary. It degenerates the system and the ailment cannot be cured,” said B.H. Vasudev, a quality assurance engineer who has begun an anti-fluoride campaign among children in Kolar.
Virtually every survey on the quality of water in Kolar has revealed that it ought to be de-fluoridised due to health hazard it poses. “I cannot bend my legs, as I have been consuming this water for the last 30 years. Sadly, even my children will meet the same fate,” 32-year-old Nagaraj in Kondamvadripalli village said.
Ironically, the Karnataka government’s effort to de-fluoridise water in this district has failed. Neither household de-fluoridation or community de-fluoridation has succeeded in containing fluorosis here.
The state government attempted household defluoridation by distributing de-fluoridation water filters to a few villages. But illiteracy and lack of training for the villagers defeated the initiative.
Subsequently, the state government attempted community de-fluoridation by setting up a water tank in 1995 to de-fluoridise drinking water. Three months after it was constructed, it became non-functional.
The excess fluoride problem has a social angle too. Parents with girls of marriageable age are a worried lot. “Many grooms have rejected my daughter because she suffers from dental fluorosis. Can I ask her to stop drinking water,” asked Sharadamma at Nallacheravu village.