BASIC HUMAN NECESSITY: Safe water eludes fluoride belt – where the centre turns a blind eye and the state raises no hue & cry – all too busy harvesting the votes to stay in power ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Balurghat, Oct. 25: Nearly two lakh residents in five blocks of South Dinajpur are consuming water contaminated with fluoride because of the failure of the district administration and the zilla parishad to implement a Rs 3-crore-safe water project taken up about a year ago.
Of the eight blocks of the district, five — Balurghat, Gangarampur, Kumarganj, Tapan and Kusumundi — are known to have water with fluoride in it. And the worst part is that the villagers are drinking the contaminated water knowing that they can be affected by fluorosis.
“Much like arsenic, fluoride is harmful for human consumption and can affect teeth and gums, skin and even oral cavities. If the presence of fluoride is more than 1mg in a litre of water, it is considered harmful,” said Paritosh Ghosh, the executive engineer of the public health engineering (PHE) department in South Dinajpur. “We have found the presence of fluoride in the water of the five blocks above the permissible limit (1mg/litre).”
The PHE department collects samples of water from fluoride-prone areas, conducts tests and campaigns to make people aware of the effects of consuming the contaminated water, he said.
According to Debabrata Ghosh, a doctor in Balurghat, consumption of excess fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, which can be evident from chalky white teeth and yellow and brown pigmentation. In severe cases, the teeth become brittle and the enamel chips off. There is also a chance of skeletal and non-skeletal fluorosis. The skeletal one leads to anterior bowing of lower limb bones and stiffness in back and neck muscles. In non-skeletal fluorosis, there are neurological and muscular ailments like weakness, nervousness, tingling sensation in fingers and stiffness.
“It is beyond doubt that fluoride causes harmful effects on any human being, if consumed beyond permissible limits on a regular basis,” said Dr Ghosh. “We are aware of the problems in five blocks of the district and often get patients with symptoms of fluorosis. The number of affected people and the children will go up if the consumption of the contaminated water is not stopped.”
Following the revelation, the zilla parishad had decided to implement the Swajaldhara scheme in the five blocks last year. Thirty projects under the scheme were supposed to be implemented in the blocks in association with the PHE department, for which the zilla parishad had earmarked Rs 3 crore. The plan envisaged supply of fluoride-free drinking water in these blocks. “It is true that the areas have been identified but we could initiate the projects so far because of certain administrative problems. However, we aim to start the projects soon,” said Zullur Rehman, the zilla parishad member who is in charge of public health.
According to him, two of these schemes are river-based, while in the remaining ones, water has to be collected from deep tubewells, filtered and then distributed to the blocks. “A team of officials had been to Malda and Murshidabad districts to see how the projects were implemented at the fluoride and arsenic affected blocks,” he said.
Prasanta Majumdar, the RSP MP from Balurghat, admitted the problem. “We want the Centre to help us and we have raised the issue more than once in Parliament,” he said.