Fluoride Action Network

Punjab: Is the water you drink safe? Think again

Source: India Express | January 3rd, 2009 | By Raakhi Jagga
Location: India

Ludhiana:All 10 blocks in Ludhiana have groundwater that is unfit for drinking: Central groundwater management dept

That groundwater in Punjab is depleting is a widely known fact but here are some facts that should set alarm bells ringing across the state. According to the latest data available with the Central Groundwater Regulation and Management department, of the total 137 groundwater resources in Punjab, 93 are unfit for drinking purposes while 13 are in a semi-critical stage. Only 31 blocks in the whole state are classified under ‘the safe zone’.

All the 10 blocks in Ludhiana have been labelled ‘dark’, that is, groundwater here is unfit for drinking purposes.

D Chakarborty, scientific officer of the department, said: “In view of the depleting groundwater resources and incidences of heavy metal pollution in groundwater, Ludhiana has been termed as the most exploited city in Punjab. Therefore, we have imposed restrictions on the construction of any structure to extract groundwater in the city.”

Jalandhar, Moga and Sangrur are next in the survey, with all their blocks declared ‘dark’. In Amritsar, which has 16 blocks with groundwater resources, 14 are ‘dark’ while two are ‘grey’ (semi-critical).

Chakarborty said: “In Amritsar, shallow groundwater is more polluted — traces of nitrate and heavy metals have been found — as compared to the deeper depths. Indiscriminate extraction of groundwater has resulted in declining water table and poor quality of water.”

In Patiala, eight out of nine blocks have been labelled ‘dark’ and the remaining one is in the ‘grey’ category. Hoshiarpur is a little safe — out of 10 blocks, six are in the ‘white zone’, three are ‘grey’ and one is ‘dark’. Mukatsar is the only city in Punjab where all the four blocks have safe drinking water.

In Mandi Gobindgarh, the shallow groundwater is polluted with iron, copper, nickel and lead while fluoride content (about 1.5 mg/litre) has been reported in Bhatinda, Patiala, Faridkot, Mukatsar and Mansa. The maximum value of fluoride — 22.6 mg/litre — was reported in Kachi Khanauri in Sangrur district. Selenium has been discovered in the groundwater of Nawanshahar and Hoshiarpur.

To improve the quality of groundwater, officials suggest that the administration sets up bacteria-resistant pumps, ensure proper treatment of industrial effluents and ‘over-irrigation’ of crops.