Fluoride Action Network

Water for all may just be a pipe dream

Source: Times News Network | April 24th, 2003
Location: India

NEW DELHI: If you think that the water crisis in the country cannot get worse, you are in for a shock. According to a WHO and UNICEF-sponsored study on water supply and sanitation in the country, the per capita requirement will outstrip the current utilisable resources by 31% by the middle of the century.

According to the report, presented to the Planning Commission today, the per capita annual requirement of water would be 1,422bn cubic metres (BCM).

As against this, the per capita total utilisable average water resources estimated on the basis of conventional technology is 1,086 BCM. The total available water resource per capita per year, a lot of which is not utilisable, is estimated at 2,384 BCM.

Worse still, the total available resource per person has declined to almost one-third the level existing at the time of Independence. The WHO-UNICEF report estimate was 6,008 BCM in 1947.

The report notes that the country may face a tough task increasing the availability of water to the level required in ‘50 as most of the undeveloped utilisable water resources are concentrated in the river basins of Brahmaputra, Ganga, Godavari and Mahanadi.

Availability apart, water in many parts of the country is not fit enough for consumption. For instance, fluoride concentration in ground water beyond the permissible limit of 1.5 parts per million affects about 66m people. Similarly, presence of excess arsenic in ground water has put about 13.8m people at risk.

The ill-effect of ingestion of fluoride through water ranges from dental fluorosis to skeletal fluorosis and excessive presence of arsenic leads to cancer of lungs, skin and kidney as well as changes in skin pigmentation and thickness. Presence of high levels of iron in ground water in north-eastern India restricts the utility of water in those areas.

Presence of heavy metals such chromium, lead, nickel, zinc, copper and manganese has been seen particularly around industrial towns.

Releasing the report here, Planning Commission deputy chairman KC Pant said the objective of the report was to flag the issues such that the governments at state level could be sensitised to the problem.

He felt that measures to conserve available resources such as rain water harvesting should be aggressively implemented. Watershed programmes could also help recharge the ground water resources. Levy of user charges on water could also reduce the misuse of water resources, he felt.