Ranchi, Dec. 26: The government has, finally, woken up to water woes plaguing schools across the state.

It has taken up an ambitious project to supply clean drinking water to around 50 lakh children in over 38,000 primary and middle schools.

Under the project titled Jalmani, a water purification system will be installed in all rural schools. The mechanism will not require electricity to function and even schoolchildren will be able to operate it. After treatment, the water will be free of bacteria and other chemical impurities. The government has already invited companies to give demonstration of their technologies.

The state government swung into action after a high-level technical committee constituted by the Centre recommended that some broad technology option should be fitted to the water supply system in every school.

In the first phase, the water purification system will be set up in one lakh schools across the country in the current fiscal. The Centre has allotted Rs 200 crore for the project.

Shardendu Narayan, the executive director of the programme, said the selected company would have to first give a demonstration. “The companies will be asked to run the unit for free for a fortnight. We will select it only if we are satisfied,” he added.

Narayan said that their priority would be to cater to arsenic and fluoride-affected districts,” Narayan said.

Groundwater in Palamau and Garhwa is contaminated with fluorides while in three blocks — Sahebganj, Rajmahal and Udhawa — of Sahebganj district, it has alarming percentage of arsenic.

A.B. Shukla, the water quality consultant for the programme, said arsenic can cause skin cancer. Fluorides, on the other hand, lead to crippling diseases like fluorosis.

In fact, in several villages of Palamau, a large number of children and adults are suffering from deformed limbs, cataract and premature ageing because they drink contaminated water.