BEYOND SAFETY LEVEL
‘Ground water in 1/3 of India not fit for drinking’
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
New Delhi: Ground water in more than a third of Indian districts is not fit for drinking. The government, in reply to a parliamentary question, admitted that iron levels in ground water are higher than those prescribed in 254 districts while fluoride levels have breached the safe level in 224 districts.
The alarming situation could bring trouble for the government, which has promised to provide drinking water to all habitations by 2012 under the millennium development goals.
While ground water is not the only source of drinking water that government utilises, it is one of the key supplies and the dependence on ground water has been increasing over years.
The government, in its reply, said salinity had risen beyond tolerance levels in 162 districts while arsenic levels were found higher than permissible limits in 34 districts. States like Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat seemed to be worst affected. Twenty-one of the 26 districts of Gujarat were found to have dangerous salinity levels and 18 had breached safe fluoride levels. The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) found 21 of 31 districts in the southern state of Karnataka to be contaminated with iron and 20 districts with higher levels of fluoride. In the case of Rajasthan, ground water in 27 districts was found to be too saline, 30 districts had higher levels of fluoride and 28 suffered from iron contamination.
The national capital does not fare any better, with five of its nine districts showing fluoride contamination and two showing salinity. Pockets of all the nine districts had high iron content.
While urban centres in the country deploy water treatment systems before supplying water to homes, the costs of cleaning up as well as chances of contamination remain. Removal of heavy metals like arsenic, though, remains a problem the government is unable to tackle where the source of water is only from the ground aquifers.
Experts have warned that lopsided water management has led to depletion of ground water aquifers and this has caused increasing contamination as people dig deeper into the ground to extract water. Cases of habitations that were provided drinking water sources based on ground water slipping back have also been highlighted recently.