CHUKRU (JHARKHAND), JAN 12: Every family in the tribal Adivasi belt in Daltonganj has at least one person with some physical deformity. Gastro-intestinal problems are routine here and miscarriages common. And almost all of them suffer from decaying teeth. Fluorosis has spread its tentacles in this village, claiming its first victim last year.
In the absence of proper drinking water facilities, these Oraon tribals have been forced to consume water contaminated with fluoride. According to Dr R.P. Singh of the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, consuming water contaminated with fluoride for six months can cause flurosis. ‘‘The impact on the body varies with the extent of fluoride in the water and the genetic and dietary status,’’ he adds.
There are more than 250 men, women and children suffering from some form of fluorosis in these villages. ‘‘I have been suffering from pain for years,’’ says Satya Narayan Oraon. Naresh and Sukri, both in their 30s, tell a similar story. Naresh’s two-month-old son is showing signs of the disease.
Health experts say there are three types of fluorosis — dental, skeletal and non-skeletal — and all three are prevalent here, though the first one is the more common of the three. Says Dr N.K. Agrawal of the Palamau Sadar Hospital: ‘‘Sixty per cent of the residents of Chukru and Bhakhari suffer from gastro-intestinal problems.’’
The disease has also taken its toll on the economy of these villages as many are not fit for any physical labour while a good number have migrated.
As per the Indian Standards Institution, the maximum permissible limit of fluoride content in water is one ppm (per million). Here, it varies between 2.24 to 7.54 ppm. The state has undertaken projects to provide safe drinking water to Chukru, Bhakari, Jorakat and Sua villages but they are still to be finished.
In 1986, the National Drinking Water Commission had set up a committee to provide safe drinking water to all fluorosis-affected villages by 1990, after a survey conducted by Society for Environment and Social Awareness (SESA), an NGO, found that 17-20 per cent of the villagers were suffering from the disease. A project to provide potable water to the villages from a tank in Daltongunj was conceived at a cost of Rs 1.75 crore. Pipes were laid and a tank was constructed. But before the tank could even be used to store water, it started showing cracks in 1999.
None of the district officials, including Deputy Commissioner Aradhna Patnaik and Deputy Development Commissioner A.K. Mishra, have cared to complete the project. Daltonganj is represented in the state Assembly by Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari. ‘‘We will see what can be done,’’ Mishra told a group of reporters who visited here on Sunday.