Fluoride in groundwater of Nuapada district is a menace for its people. Suffering due to this contamination is gradually increasing.
About 60 per cent of the tube-wells here, which are the main sources of drinking water, contain more than the permissible fluoride level of 1.00 mg per litre.
The RWSS department has tested water samples of 352 sources between April and August and it was found that all these sources have fluoride contamination of more than 1.50 mg/L.
It is a matter of concern that 58 of these 352 sources are located either in schools, Anganwadi Centres or inside the health centres.
Samples of 707 sources tested between September 2017 and March 2018 also have similar findings. Out of these 707 sources having fluoride content of more than 1.5 mg/l, 115 are located inside educational and health institutions and AWCs. The district administration boasts of taking several steps like pipe water supply, installation of de-fluoridation plants etc, to address the problem but the ground realities are different.
A tube well located near the primary school of village Jarelpadar under Bharuamunda panchayat of Sinapali block is the only source of drinking water for the people of Katapada habitation with 150 population. In addition, this source also serves as the only source for above 160 children of the primary school here.
“The Government says tube well water is safer than the open well; so we prefer this for drinking and cooking,” says Bilasini Kata of Katapada without knowing that the water they are drinking is contaminated with 3.45 mg of fluoride per litre.
The students of Bharuamunda High School, above 230 in number, including 65 boarders, drink 5.25 mg of fluoride per litre. “Considering the high level of fluoride in the old tube well, the administration sunk another one in our premises, but the water quality of this new one also does not seem good,” says the Headmaster of the school. Sample of the new one is yet to be tested.
The permissible limit of fluoride in drinking water according to World Health Organisation (WHO) is 1.00 mg/L, whereas in India it is considered to be 1.5 mg/L. Consumption of fluoride beyond this limit causes flurosis – a disease that causes deformities in bones and teeth. “It also causes anaemia in children and pregnant women,” says Dr Aditya Joshi, citing a study published in the ‘Current Science’ recently, which blames fluoride toxicity also for the deficiency disease, a condition of low haemoglobin (Hb) in the blood.
Information available in Government of India website https://indiawater.gov.in/IMIS reveals that all the tube wells in Bharuamunda panchayat have excessive levels of fluoride ranging from 1.55 mg/L (MajhiPada of Talpadar) to 5.25 mg/L (High School Pada of Bharuamunda).
“In the absence of alternative, above 4,000 people of the panchayat are forced to depend on the contaminated sources,” says ZP member Priya Ranjan Meher.
“We agree that the Government has made effort to create alternative, but the Government people do not accept their failure,” says Sarpanch of Bharuamunda KabitaTandi.
“One PWS project made six / seven years ago with an investment of about Rs 60 lakh in our panchayat, proposed to supply water to 26 habitations of two panchayats, but after completion, it was seen that 19 habitations remained unreached.
The PVC pipes are of low quality that breaks regularly due to high pressure of supply and it becomes difficult to fill the overhead tank located at a distance of one and half kms from the source,” adds Kabita.
Executive Engineer of Fluoride Special Project, Nuapada, GopalNaik says the villages of Bharuamunda GP have been excluded from the mega project, because they were in the ‘Commissioned Project’ list of the RWSS due to the PWS project. “However, if the existing pipe lines laid for PWS project are in good condition, we will link that to our mega project,” he adds.
But, this seems uncertain, first, because the proposal of linking the mega to the PWS is yet to be officially put in papers and second, the pipe lines are not in good conditions.
“Our Panchayat spends above Rs 60,000 every year to replace the torn pipes to continue supply of water to seven habitations, in addition to the electricity dues of Rs 1.5 lakh per annum,” says Kabita.
As the PWS project in official records is still recorded as functional, now it is to be seen how the Government deals with such a situation to address the water problem of villagers.
The work agreement with the construction agencies allots a period of two years for completion of the project.
The villagers demand supply of water in tankers during the commissioning period.