|3.56 lakh people face fluorosis risk in State|
GUWAHATI, Jan 31 - Excessive fluoride in the drinking water extracted from the ground has led to the misery of dental and skeletal fluorosis in thousands of people in hundreds of habitations of the State. According to an official survey, groundwater of 793 habitations under 24 development blocks in eleven districts of the State is found to be contaminated with excessive fluoride till 2016. The survey also found that around 3.56 lakh of the State’s people are at risk of being affected by fluorosis.
The districts where groundwater is found to be contaminated by excessive fluoride contents, include Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamrup, Udalguri, Nagaon, Golaghat, Jorhat, Karbi Anglong and Karimganj.
It needs mention here that the problem of excessive fluoride in drinking water started emerging with the installation of the schemes to provide groundwater to the people as drinking water in lieu of the surface water that was traditionally used by the people of the State for thousands of years for drinking and other household purposes. This decision was taken in the late 1950s with a view to do away with the water-borne diseases, as surface water extracted from the sources in traditional manner exposed people all over the State to bacterial infection when it was used for drinking purposes without being filtered. The option of supplying treated surface water through piped water schemes to the households was not taken into consideration then for the reasons best known to the policy-makers of the State.
The necessity of assessing the quality of the drinking water extracted from the ground was also not felt that time. And thus the people of the State, particularly those living in its rural areas, were made vulnerable to fluorosis and arsenicosis.
Most of the fluorosis victims are children. One of the places where concentration of such people is found is the Haladhiati or Tapatjuri area, in which five of the worst fluoride-affected villages are located. The area is under the Binnakandi Development Block of the newly created Hojai district of the State. Here, 1108 people, 457 being children, have been crippled due to use of fluoride-contaminated drinking water.
It is found in an unofficial survey that groundwater of around 285 villages of Hojai district is contaminated by excessive fluoride and around 50,000 children in these villages have fallen victim to fluorosis – dental or skeletal, said Dharani Saikia, general secretary of the Kampur-based environment group Parisvesh Sangrakshan Kendra.
Saikia has penned a book – Fluoride Akranta Anchal Etar Karun Gatha: Tapatjurir Chakulo – based on the story of the fluorosis-affected people of the Tapatjuri area and the efforts Parivesh Sangrakshan Kendra to provide relief to these people by way of providing free medical treatment, rehabilitation, etc. The book was released at a function at the Guwahati Press Club here today. The function was presided over by Parivesh Sangrakshan Kendra president Sabharam Majumdar.
The function was addressed by former Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) Additional Chief Engineer Najibuddin Ahmed, journalist Mriganka Saikia, filmmaker Dip Bhuyan and Dharani Saikia, among others.
According to official sources here, the State Government has already initiated mitigation programmes in 638 habitations. Under these programmes, 35 piped water schemes have been implemented as part of a long-term measure and 861 ring wells have been installed as short-term measure. The major drinking water schemes are also in the offing, said the sources.