HYDERABAD: Telangana is second in the list of states associated with drinking water problems as a new Union health ministry data shows close to 1,174 hamlets across the state being affected by fluorosis.
The worst hit is Nalgonda district. This is however, not the first time that the issue was brought to the fore. “We have been bringing this to the notice of the government for quite some time. But there seems to be a strong political and bureaucratic apathy,” K Dileep Kumar, MLC, Nalgonda, said.
Fluorosis can be defined as excessive fluoride intake. As per the WHO norms, the permissible limit is 1mg per litre, whereas in districts like Nalgonda, the fluoride levels are as hugh as 7mg per litre.
Excessive fluoride intake leads to loss of calcium in the bones and teeth.
This is evident in the denizens of Nalgonda as they have been drinking this water for decades. There are many cases of ruptured bone structures and crippled youngsters.
Over the years, both the state and various central governments along with NGOs have been pushing crores of money towards the fluorosis problem in Nalgonda, but in vain. In 2012, Rs 200 crore was pledged by a house committee headed by the then speaker Nandela Manohar while in 2009, the Telugu Association of North America gave a grant of $60,000 for the establishment of fluoride treatment plants.
Officials and people’s representatives have begun to ponder over the expenditure of the money.
“In the last 10 years, the districts received only Rs 800 crore which hardly meets 25% of the expenditure in the state,” the MLC said.
He added that most of the money is being siphoned off by contractors who are assigned the work, leaving the projects incomplete. For instance, a regional fluoride mitigation and research centre was supposed to be built two-years ago, but it received its initial funding just a month ago.
This centre was supposed to have all the facilities for rehabilitating patients affected by fluorosis and labs for testing.
Experts said that the only way to deal with this problem is to ensure that all the surface level water sources are maintained well so that there is scope for recharging the groundwater levels.
Official records show that there are close to 4,762 tanks in the district, which if restored, could curb fluorosis to a certain level.
“The root cause of fluorosis is the extensive use of bore wells. Earlier, the major source of water in the district was open wells or lakes. But in the last two decades, people have been digging bore wells which have penetrated the sub-surface levels where there is a high fluoride content. Over the years there have been several schemes that were launched to tackle the issue, but they fizzled out very soon,” G Sambaiah, director, ground water directorate, Telangana, said.