22 September 2020.
Arsenic contamination in groundwater is one of the most crippling issues in the drinking water scenario of India. As per data submitted by the Jal Shakti Ministry, the arsenic-affected habitations have surged by 145% in the last five years.This was provided as written reply to the Lok Sabha by the minister of State Jal Shakti Shri Ratan Lal Kataria.
- According to the latest report of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), 21 states across the country have pockets with arsenic levels higher than the Bureau of Indian Standards’ (BIS) stipulated permissible limit of 0.01 miligram per litre (mg/l).
- At present there are 4,421 arsenic-affected habitations.
- In 2015 the number was 1,800.
- Reportedly, most of these habitations fall in Ganga and Brahmaputra plains of Assam, Bihar, UP and Bengal.
- Assam has the highest (1,853) habitations, followed by Bengal.
- The state of Jharkhand that had no such habitation, now has two Arsenic effected habitations.
- The number of these habitations has increased from zero in 2015 to nine in 2020.
Harmful Effects of Arsenic Poisoning:
· Chronic arsenic toxicity (arsenicosis) as a result of drinking arsenic-contaminated groundwater is a major environmental health hazard throughout the world, including India.
Cancers of kidney or lung or diseases of skin (colour changes, and hard patches on palms and soles), or blood vessels of legs and feet. Fresh evidence indicates possible association between intake of contaminated water to onset of diabetes, hypertension and reproductive disorders due to toxicity from arsenic.
· Recent research papers say arsenic contamination in groundwater has penetrated the food chain.
· Crops which are irrigated with arsenic contaminated water get laced with arsenic and become a health hazard even to those who do not reside in the affected areas.
- Mitigation measures — that are currently focused on drinking water — must have a more comprehensive approach to ensure arsenic-free water for drinking and agricultural products.
- That means that the government must check for arsenic in water used for agricultural produce.
- Both the Union and state governments must work toward facilitating research that can investigate the accumulation of arsenic in crops and addressing the agricultural concerns of the affected regions.
- They must watch out for arsenic percolation in the food chain and the possibilities of biomagnification.
- The government needs to also conduct a larger study on the arsenic contamination of our food chain and its health impacts to understand its spatial spread through the agricultural supply chain.