Guwahati, Wednesday, December 26, 2018
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Urgent steps needed to make Guwahati an arsenic-free zone
Ushakanti Das

 
 FROM TIME TO TIME, media reports about high-level of arsenic and fluoride contamination in the groundwater in Assam and some other states of India. Consumption of contaminated drinking water over the years acts like a slow poison or a silent killer and nobody can escape the effects of arsenic and fluoride poisoning in water. So, non-availability of safe drinking water facilities causes many diseases.

“Intake of arsenic-contaminated water leads to cancer of skin, bladder, kidney or lung or diseases of the skin or blood vessels of legs and feet. Arsenic-contaminated water is also linked with the onset of diabetes, even hypertension and reproductive disorders. A majority of fluorosis victims are children and the most pronounced symptoms of fluorosis are bent legs. Besides, affecting reproductive health, consumption of water containing excessive fluoride causes dental and skeletal fluorosis,” as stated in a report published in The Times of India on April 2, 2017, under the headline "Safe Water drive: 28k localities across the country to be arsenic-free by 2021".

On this issue, it has been recently reported that arsenic and fluoride contents are rapidly growing in the city's groundwater in the last few years and consumption of such water is a matter of grave concern for the city residents. But how can we fight this problem and protect ourselves as well as the future generation? The government has to play a big role in this regard.

According to the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC), the groundwater in areas like Birkuchi, Banda, Panikhaiti side, etc., is contaminated with arsenic and fluoride. The GMC authorities also stated that they are examining the groundwater in other parts of the city to find such possibility of arsenic and fluoride contamination. This is a praiseworthy step on the part of the GMC. We hope that the GMC will be able to detect more such affected areas in the city as soon as possible.

Unofficial sources, however, stated that the groundwater in areas like Beltola, Patharkuchi, Chandrapur, Noonmati, Narengi, Gorchuck, Tetelia, North Bank of the Brahmaputra, Kalapahar side, etc., is contaminated with arsenic. It poses a major health threat to the people living in these areas of the city.

In this connection, I would like to suggest the following measures to be taken by the departments concerned of the state government to tackle the problem:

1. The Kamrup (M) district administration should instruct the department concerned to supply safe drinking water to the residents of the arsenic and fluoride affected areas in the city.

2. The state government should allocate sufficient funds to make safe drinking water available in such affected areas of the city.

3. The government must find a permanent solution to mitigate the problem.

4. The arsenic-affected people should be immediately hospitalised.

5. Last but not least, the state government should adopt measures in consultation with highly qualified experts/engineers in this field to deal with the issue and make Guwahati an arsenic and fluoride-free zone.

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