Fluoride Action Network

Water contamination in Thar Desert

Source: PakTribune | Islamabad
Posted on March 28th, 2011
Location: Pakistan

Fluorosis, a disease caused by high intake of fluoride, is becoming endemic in Tharparkar with more than 250 of the 950 people in Samoon Rind village having developed bone deformities and skeletal and dental fluorosis due to the consumption of groundwater with high levels of fluoride.

According to reports, severe drought-like conditions, decreasing water level in wells and increase in salt concentration are endangering the lives of the Thari people. In the absence of a public water supply, people are compelled to use groundwater, which is high in fluoride. Fluoride causes dental and skeletal fluorosis, osteosclerosis, thyroid and kidney problems when its concentration exceeds 1.5 mg/l in drinking water, and the intake of excessive fluoride leads to chronic bone and joint deformations. Healthcare is a major issue in Thar.

Fluorosis is irreversible and no remedy or treatment has so far been found except for prevention by keeping the fluoride intake within safe limits. Both dental and skeletal fluorosis not only affect the body of a person but also render him socially and culturally crippled.

Research disclosed that groundwater in the areas along the north and north-eastern side of Thar, particularly in Samoon Rind, Kalario, Narovari and Sukhani villages of Tharparkar and Bhojrajio, Morasio and Ramsar villages of Umerkot district carried high levels of fluoride. Samoon Rind village has a population of 950 souls, out of whom more than 250 have the disease. One or two members of each family are suffering from arthritis and a large number of elders and children are in serious need of corrective orthopaedic surgery. A local NGO, Association for Water Applied Education and Renewable Energy (AWARE), said that the situation in Thar region was alarming and required the government to immediately take remedial measures including better development of groundwater and installation of de-fluoridation and desalination plants.

Quality, quantity and access to water should be addressed with an integrated approach instead of installing hi-fi technology based systems having high recurring costs and allocating a major portion of budget for wells in Thar. Experience has proved that without technology transfer, appropriate technology and a user-friendly approach, no project can sustain fruitful results. Local NGOs have set up windmills for easy access to water and cost effective RO plants. Line departments should study these examples and replicate them in these backward areas.