Concern over poor quality of drinking water

High fluoride and nitrate content in ground water

JAIPUR: The United Nations has selected Rajasthan as a priority State for its focus on vital sectors such as water resources management, health care, nutrition, education and AIDS prevention for the next five years from 2008 to 2012. This forms part of the global body’s efforts to strengthen its relationship with the desert State to foster its development.

The U.N. has also supported setting up of a Legislators’ Forum with the State Assembly, while recognising the important role of legislators in the process of human resource development. The new body will have a knowledge partnership for human development and Millennium Development Goals and enable the MLAs to discuss the issues in a more structured manner. U.N. Resident Coordinator Maxine Oslon, addressing the Forum’s first meeting on the Assembly premises here on Thursday, expressed concern over the poor quality of drinking water in several parts of the State and noted that the problems of excess fluoride and microbiological contamination needed immediate response for lasting solutions.

“Since the MLAs are the voice of the people they represent and also the policy makers, their role is critical for any intervention to be successful,” said Dr. Oslon.

The discussions at the meeting were centred on identifying the areas needing attention and evolving a strategy to resolve the issues of water availability, management and quality. Rajasthan is one of the six priority States on which the U.N. will focus during the next five years. Other states are Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh.

Assembly Speaker Sumitra Singh, Public Health Engineering Minister Chunnilal Dhakar, Deputy Speaker R.N. Bishnoi, noted economist V.S. Vyas, Chairperson of the Legislators’ Forum Core Committee, Nathu Singh Gujjar, and the Executive Director, State Water and Sanitation Mission, Hemant Joshi, were among those who addressed the half-day meeting.

Ms. Sumitra Singh called for urgent steps for rejuvenation of traditional water sources and restoration of pasture land, while noting that 142 of the 237 panchayat samitis in the State had turned into “dark zones”. She said the rooftop water harvesting in all new buildings constructed in cities should be made mandatory. Prof. Vyas underlined the need for greater investment in augmenting water resources and ensuring corresponding and tangible benefits to the users. He said the elected representatives had an important role in ensuring an efficient use of water and discouraging narrow and parochial views on development of water resource. Mr. Hemant Joshi pointed out that ground water in Rajasthan, which accounts for 91 per cent of drinking water, has a high fluoride and nitrate content and high salinity, leading to serious water-borne diseases. He felt that the lack of facilities for waste disposal and inadequate arrangement for waste treatment facilities were affecting the ground water quality.

Mr. Dhakar said the village panchayats should be authorised to test the quality of water and monitor water supply sources. Mr. Gujjar said the State would benefit immensely from the expertise of the U.N. specialists, who would share their experiences and recommend strategies for development activities. Nearly 30 MLAs cutting across party lines who attended the meeting and participated in an open house discussion expressed anxiety over water pollution and called for immediate corrective steps.

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