| A defunct arsenic removal unit installed at Buxar. Telegraph picture |
A research team assessing measures for groundwater arsenic mitigation has challenged the government’s claim of providing uncontaminated drinking water to 2,040 habitations.
City-based researchers Ashok Ghosh and Nupur Bose are conducting a study on groundwater contamination in Bihar sponsored by the department of science and technology at the Centre. According to the findings and observations till now, the team has claimed most groundwater purification projects undertaken by the state public health and engineering department to remove presence of arsenic, fluoride and iron, have failed.
Lack of planning, maintenance of equipment, insufficient community participation were pegged as the reasons for the failure of the schemes.
PHED minister Chandra Mohan Rai, however, recently informed the Assembly that groundwater in 13 districts, on either sides of the Ganga, are affected with high levels of arsenic, 11 districts in the hard-rock terrains have shown high levels of fluoride and the western Kosi region has high levels of iron.
Of the 6,100 habitations found to have contaminated groundwater, people in 2,040 habitations were provided pure drinking water, he added.
Ghosh, the principal investigator, refuted the claims.
“The PHED minister’s claim on the mitigation of arsenic, fluoride and iron in groundwater is an exaggerated statement. First, based on the findings of our studies, high level of arsenic is present in 18 and not 13 districts of Bihar. I also challenge his claim of 2,040 habitations affected by the contaminants being supplied pure drinking water. Based on our evaluation of different arsenic- and fluoride-mitigation projects of the PHED, field tests and interviews with villagers, PHED engineers and other stakeholders, most of these projects have failed to provide clean drinking water because of several reasons,” said Ghosh, a member of State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, Bihar.