According to recent report tabled in the Lok Sabha, West Bengal has the highest number of arsenic-affected people in the country. State’s 83 blocks in eight districts have ground water affected by arsenic contamination.
Despite the State government’s efforts to curb the Arsenic menace, there is still a lot to be done. So far, state government was able to provide safe drinking water to 52% of the arsenic-affected areas in Bengal.
- The total number of arsenic-affected people in the country is about 1.48 crore (as of March 2017).
- West Bengal has topped the list with more than 1.04 crore arsenic-affected persons.
- Bihar is second with 16.88 lakh persons, with Assam is third with 14.48 lakh victims.
- According to the WHO’s guidelines for drinking water quality (2011), the permissible limit of Arsenic in groundwater is .01 m/ litre.
- However, in India the permissible limit in drinking water was only recently been revised from .05 mg/litre to .01 mg/litre.
- West Bengal government recently had initiated a project to provide safe drinking water to more than six lakh people in the arsenic-affected blocks.
- However, there is slow progress in setting up water treatment plants since the technology for removal of arsenic is new and expensive.
About Arsenic Contamination
- Arsenic is a natural component in the earth’s crust. It is widely distributed throughout the environment in the air, water and land. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form.
- Contaminated water used for drinking, irrigation of food crops and food preparation poses the greatest threat to public health from arsenic.
- Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning. It can cause cancer, skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes.
- The most important action in affected communities is the prevention of further exposure to arsenic by providing them of a safe water supply.
- It is a high-profile problem in the Ganges Delta, due to the use of deep tubewells for water supply. The groundwater in these tubewells have high concentrations of arsenic in deeper levels .