Bihar, U.P. & West Bengal are worst affected by arsenic contamination in groundwater, says recent report

Bihar, U.P. & West Bengal are worst affected by arsenic contamination in groundwater, says recent report


The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD & GR) in its latest report has identified arsenic hotspots across the country, most notably in the states of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Please consult chart-3 to get an idea about the geographical spread of arsenic hotspots in India.

On the basis of arsenic concentration in the range 0.01-0.05 mg per litre in water samples collected from groundwater observation wells and hand pumps, the recent report has identified 94 districts across the country.

Chart-1 shows that Bihar (19) has the highest number of districts having arsenic concentration in groundwater samples in the range 0.01-0.05 mg per litre, followed by Uttar Pradesh & Gujarat (12 each), West Bengal & Madhya Pradesh (8 each) and Assam (7).    

Chart 1 Number of districts having arsenic concentration in groundwater between 0.01 to 0.05 mg per litre
 
Source: Arsenic hotspots in groundwater in India (2019), Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, please click here to access
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From chart-2 one gets that West Bengal (6) leads in terms of having the highest number of districts with arsenic concentration in groundwater samples greater than 0.05 mg per litre, followed by Uttar Pradesh (5) and Assam & Punjab (3 each). There are altogether 26 districts/ UTs in the country with arsenic contamination in groundwater greater than 0.05 mg per litre.

Chart 2 State UT wise number of districts in having arsenic concentration in groundwater greater than 0.05 mg per litre
Source: Arsenic hotspots in groundwater in India (2019), Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, please click here to access 
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If one consults the reply by the Minister of State for Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation Shri Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi (to unstarred question no. 2671) in the Lok Sabha on 27th December, 2018, it could be found that most number of arsenic affected habitations are located in West Bengal (9,250), followed by Assam (4,327), Bihar (815), Uttar Pradesh (745) and Punjab (652). Please see table-1 for details.

Table 1: State-wise number of arsenic affected habitations as reported by the states in Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) of the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation as on 20th December, 2018  



Source: Lok Sabha unstarred Question no. 2671, to be answered on 27th December, 2018, please click here to access
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The latest report by the MoWR, RD & GR mentions that in the state of West Bengal, 79 blocks in 8 districts have arsenic in groundwater beyond the permissible limit of 0.05 mg per litre. The districts, which are affected by high concentration of arsenic in groundwater, are Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and Bardhaman. Please check chart-3. In West Bengal, arsenic is found in groundwater, which is derived from aquifers upto 100 metre depth, although the deeper aquifers are free from arsenic contamination.

Chart 3: Arsenic hotspots in the country

Chart 3 Arsenic hotspots in the country
Source: Arsenic hotspots in groundwater in India (2019), Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, please click here to access

The report by the MoWR, RD & GR also provides the list of blocks and locations within each district, where arsenic concentration in groundwater is high. For example, in Vadlamudi (Chebrolu block) and Etukuru (Guntur Rural block) of Guntur district (Andhra Pradesh), the concentration of arsenic found in groundwater were 0.02 mg per litre and 0.01 mg per litre, respectively. Similarly, in Ramdas (Ajnala block) of Amritsar district (Punjab), the concentration of arsenic found in groundwater was 0.06 mg per litre.

Health impact of arsenic contamination in groundwater


The report by the MoWR, RD & GR states that arsenic has been recognized as a toxic element and is considered a human health hazard. In this context it is essential to consult the reply given by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the Lok Sabha on 20th July, 2018 (to unstarred question no. 550). On being questioned whether diseases caused by arsenic pollution are rapidly rising in the country particularly in backward and rural areas, Smt. Anupriya Patel stated that it cannot be said that a particular disease is caused by arsenic pollution only and, so, no separate details (viz. data) are kept by the government.

High level of arsenic in drinking-water is carcinogenic to human beings, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic (for example, through drinking water and food) increases the chance of skin cancer and may also cause cancers of the bladder and lungs.

Long-term intake of inorganic arsenic could impact health in terms of developmental effects, diabetes, pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease. Exposure to arsenic negatively affects cognitive development, intelligence, and memory. Exposure to arsenic adversely affects pregnant women and children including infants.

References

Arsenic hotspots in groundwater in India (2019), Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, please click here to access
 
Lok Sabha unstarred Question no. 2671, to be answered on 27th December, 2018, please click here to access
 
Lok Sabha unstarred Question no. 550, to be answered on 20th July, 2018, please click here to access 

Note on Arsenic, World Health Organization (WHO), 15th February, 2018, please click here to access 

Silent killer arsenic slowly poisoning crores of people in West Bengal as successive govts fail to address issue -Atonu Choudhurri, Firstpost.com, 3 April, 2019, please click here to access 

Time-bound plan needed to address contaminated water -Mayank Aggarwal, Mongabay.com, 10 January, 2019, please click here to access 

High Arsenic Levels In Punjab Wells Raising Major Public-Health Concern: Study, NDTV, 11 December, 2018, please click here to access

Death by slow poisoning -Priyanka Pulla, The Hindu, 19 May, 2018, please click here to access 

Cancer has exploded in Bihar as lakhs of people drink water poisoned with arsenic -M Rajshekhar, Scroll.in, 24 April, 2017, please click here to access
 
 
Image Courtesy: Inclusive Media for Change/ Himanshu Joshi



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