GUWAHATI, Sept 6 � Confronting the growing cases of groundwater contamination with fluoride and arsenic, the State Government is now laying more stress on harnessing surface water sources for the purpose of meeting the drinking water needs of the people.
This marks a paradigm shift in the State Government�s approach in meeting the drinking water demands of the people, particularly in the rural areas.
Taking part as a panelist, the Secretary of the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) of the State, AK Das told a gathering at a round-table discussion organised by the voluntary organisation Arsenic Knowledge and Action Network at the IIT Guwahati on Friday, that to remove the possibility of bacteriological contamination of drinking water, groundwater sources were tried to be tapped earlier. But with the growing incidents of detection of fluoride and arsenic contamination of groundwater, the change in the approach in favour of surface water has become necessary. The Union Government has given the State two years� time to complete the surface water schemes.
However, the Union Government has not raised the allocations to the State in this area. If the required funds are made available to the State, it will be able to complete the schemes under execution within the next three to four years, he said.
He further informed that the maintenance of the existing PHED schemes has become a problem for the department, as appointment of the field staff has been stopped by the Government since 1993. Hence, community participation in maintaining these schemes is the demand of the hour.
On the other hand, till the surface water schemes are completed, the groundwater sources would be required to be exploited and here arises the need to generate awareness among the people on the contamination of their groundwater sources. The civil society organisations should get themselves involved in the bids to generate awareness among the common people in this connection.
However, programmes to generate awareness among the people alone are not going to deliver the desired goods, he observed.
Prof Kunal Kanti Majumdar, a medical expert from West Bengal engaged in the area of detecting and treating arsenicosis cases, said that the problem of maintenance has been making the water supply schemes redundant in West Bengal too. He suggested that people�s committees should be engaged in maintaining such schemes.
In the area of making people aware about the menace of arsenic and fluoride contamination of drinking water, he suggested steps to develop communication material in a planned manner and involvement of mass media to make the bids to generate public awareness in this connection more effective. Moreover, there is a need of inter-sectoral coordination too, said Prof Majumdar.
In the panel discussion, moderated by Prof Chandan Mahanta of the IIT, Guwahati, former chief engineer of the State PHED, AB Paul made a presentation on the genesis of detection of fluoride and arsenic contamination of groundwater of the State and the bids to mitigate the threats posed by these phenomenon. Nutritionist Dr Suneetha Sapur from Hyderabad also spoke on the occasion.
Earlier, Prof Kunal Kanti Majumdar made a presentation on arsenic contamination of groundwater and arsenicosis cases in West Bengal.