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Plan for arsenic research hub

Calcutta will have a research centre on arsenic contamination in water, public health engineering minister Subrata Mukherjee said in the Assembly on Friday.

The state government has taken over nine acres in Pailan, on the southern fringe, for the project, which will be executed with grants from the Centre and technical support from the Unesco.

The institute will have a wing to treat patients suffering from arsenic poisoning.

“The institute on arsenic contamination will be the first of its kind in India. The government has taken possession of the land and work will begin in right earnest,” Mukherjee later said. “The Centre has proposed a grant-in-aid of Rs 100 crore for the project. Several rounds of talks have been held with the Unesco as well.”

The decision to set up the institute follows the finding of a recent state government study that arsenic, known to be present in dangerous proportions in the ground water of several districts, has found its way to the water table under Calcutta.

“Arsenic is finding its way from South 24-Parganas to Calcutta. We have detected it in water samples collected from Jadavpur, Dhakuria and Jodhpur Park,” Mukherjee said. “The institute will not only carry out research on arsenic contamination of water but also the effect of other elements found in water, like fluoride and iron.”

Senior public health engineering department officials said 82 blocks across six districts of Bengal — including North and South 24-Parganas — are worst-hit. The state government has taken up a project to tackle the problem in these districts.

“There are reasons to believe that arsenic is now finding its way into food and even cow milk,” Mukherjee said. “The government has already started mapping zones that are severely affected by arsenic contamination. Once the Pailan institute comes up, it would be able to provide crucial information on the latest ways of battling arsenic contamination.”

Shop fire

A fire broke out at a roadside tea stall next to Northern Park playground in Bhowanipore on Friday afternoon. Three fire tenders doused the flames.