Fluoride Action Network

Threat of Fluorosis in drought-hit Gujarat

Source: Times of India | Times News Network
Posted on March 22nd, 2004
Location: India

GANDHINAGAR: As the dawn breaks, Nirmalaben walks a long distance, carrying water. But it is not the arduous trek for water that has cast a shadow on her face.

She is worried about the water she is carrying home for her family members – it’s laced with fluoride, and many in Mehsana district are already suffering from fluorosis.

As people around the globe commemorate World Water Day on Monday, Gujarat will wake up to a grim reality: 44 per cent of its villages do not have access to potable water.

Worse still, a government report says 8,252 out of 18,822 villages face problems of high salinity and fluoride and nitrate content in water.

The study by the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB) indicates that 4,341 villages suffer from high fluoride content in water, 2,571 from salinity and 1,336 from nitrate.

“As many as 2,504 villages have been covered under the regional water supply schemes. Of these, 1,286 villages have high fluoride, 748 salinity and 475 nitrate. Water from the Narmada river through pipelines is the only solution as groundwater pollution has become a permanent feature,” says a GWSSB official.

Past surveys suggest that the problem of fluoride content in water has been deepening. The Gujarat Ecology Commission’s draft Action Environmental Programme, prepared last year, said in 1991, just 831 villages had fluoride levels in groundwater higher than permissible limit.

In 1997, the figure reached 2,836. Now, the GWSSB survey says the number of such villages have nearly doubled to 4,341.

“The districts severely affected by fluoride contamination are Mehsana and Sabarkantha. High fluoride levels in drinking water are directly associated with the crippling ailment of fluorosis. There are two types of fluorosis. Dental fluorosis causes yellow spots on the teeth and loosens them. The other, more serious, type is skeletal fluorosis, which causes severe pain and stiffness in the joints,” says the report.

The report says that a survey conducted in 14 villages in Amreli district suggests 20 per cent of the population suffer from dental fluorosis and 30 to 40 per cent of them from skeletal fluorosis.

“In Mehsana district, where groundwater mining takes place unabated, a detailed epidemoiological survey showed that of the 559 villages surveyed, 236 reported the prevalence of fluorosis.