Water contamination is causing a major headache to officials busy tackling the acute water scarcity in most parts of the state.
Many sources supplying drinking water to the affected areas have become contaminated with harmful substances such as fluoride, arsenic, iron etc.
Drinking water sources in 3,207 of the 59,753 habitats in the state have been contaminated as on March 31, 2014, according to information obtained from the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
Fluoride contamination was traced in 1,503 habitats, arsenic in 16, iron in 556, salinity in 377 and nitrates in 755. With 676 contaminated drinking water habitats, Tumkur has the highest number, Mandya 448, Kolar 319, Bellary 224, Raichur 205, Davangere 170, and Mysore 135, with the remaining situated in other districts.
Water sources in 62 habitats are contaminated in Bangalore Urban district and in 20 habitats in Bangalore Rural district.
Difficulty in Testing Water
According to an official, they are finding it difficult to ascertain if the water is potable as they are buying it from various private borewell owners in Belgaum and other districts. However, Panchayat Raj Engineering Department chief engineer Jagannath Reddy said: “We have identified the contaminated drinking water sources and are setting up over 1,000 reverse osmosis plants in the habitats that have a population of 500 and more people to purify water within a few days.”
He said the panchayat raj minister recently instructed them to install 2,000 more reverse osmosis plants, and therefore, it might be possible to provide clean drinking water to all habitats soon. Till then they will do everything possible to supply clean drinking water to the contaminated habitats, he said.
Environmentalist A N Yellappa Reddy said: “The figures do not reflect the real extent of contamination as they are based on water samples collected from areas in which people have complained. The extent of contamination is much higher as fluoride contamination is present in 14 districts and arsenic contamination is present in some districts. As water would have percolated to the aquifers that are situated more than 600 feet below some thousands of years ago, they would naturally be contaminated due to their contact with the minerals and other things in the ground. If such water is not treated before consumption, it might cause various health complications, including cancer.”
He said the government should emulate Rajasthan and bring out a water policy to regulate the use of water and to manage water-shed, land and other related resources properly. Programmes should be formulated to minimise the use of ground water and recharge it. “If not, the situation will go out of control,” Reddy warned.
Consumption of fluoride contaminated water will lead to yellowing of teeth, affect the back bone and eventually cause skeletal fluorosis, a bone crippling disease. Nitrates cause various health complications like blue baby syndrome, a condition of breathlessness that leads to the death of an infant. Arsenic contamination will damage the liver and the nervous system and cause vascular diseases and skin cancer.
The other contaminants can cause various health complications, including chronic fatigue, arthritis, heart disease, cirrhosis, cancer, diabetes, thyroid problems, impotence and sterility.