Marxnagar (Unnao), January 30: About 70 km from Lucknow, this village in Unnao is fighting water problems of a different kind. The high fluoride content in the soil here has contaminated the water in their wells. As a result, most of the 400-odd villagers suffer from fluorosis.
Sumangal is among the more seriously affected. He can barely move his hands and legs. He just about manages to stand up with the help of a stick.
‘‘You will find physical deformities in at least one member of every family here,’’ says Rajju Devi, another villager. Pointing to her severly deformed legs, she adds: ‘‘The disease has taken a toll on my family. About two years ago, one of my sons died due to it… It started with a slight deformation in his fingers. We thought it would go away…’’
She now fears for her grandchild, Pankaj. ‘‘It’s been a month or so since his left fingers started getting deformed. God forbid if he to meets the same fate as my son,’’ she says.
The source of the contamination has been identified as fluoride rocks in the soil. The civic authorities have now asked the villagers not to consume water from the village wells.
‘‘There are two wells in the village here. Doctors said the fluoride in our soil has percolated into the wells, thus leading to these deformities,’’ said Sanjay Singh, brother of the gram pradhan, Netra Pal Singh.
So villagers now source their drinking water from nearby villages where the fluoride content is comparatively lower. The nearest such source is about 1 km away. Locals say the only option is to re-locate the entire village now.
‘‘We cannot change the soil of our village. So we should be re-located to some other place,’’ said Singh.
Meanwhile, the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) has stepped in to find a solution. It carried out a preliminary survey recently.
‘‘In our field investigation, we found the fluoride rocks are responsible for the physical deformities affecting the villagers,’’ said Dr Kamla Kulshreshtha, scientist, Eco-education, NBRI.
The NBRI’s prime aim is to lower the fluoride content in the soil. ‘‘We will be planting some saplings which, by absorbing fluoride from the soil, will lower its content,’’ informed Kulshreshtha.
The NBRI will also conduct training programmes to instruct the villagers on the importance of a high-protein diet. ‘‘Besides fluorisis, another reason for their poor health is that their diet is low on protein. We will be initiating various awareness programmes so that they villagers realise the importance of protein,’’ said scientists.