14
Aug
10

Arsenic in groundwater is a global calamity!!

Arsenic is a killer element. Groundwater in West Bengal and Bangladesh is contaminated with arsenic and people are  drinking arsenic contaminated water for the last several decades. Since it is tasteless, millions drink such water unknowingly and succumb to its poisonous effect. Nearly 40 % of 80 million people in West Bengal are suffering from arsenic related diseases. Children are the worst affected. The arsenic content in groundwater in West Bengal is ~ 3.2 mg/L while the limit is between 10 to 50 mgm/L. In fact several SE countries have this problem.  According to WHO this problem in West Bengal and Bangladesh is termed as global problem and several scientific bodies are seeking solution to this problem. Now from groundwater this menace has entered the food chain through irrigation practice. A large number of bore wells operate continuously pumping groundwater from different depths to rice fields. The amount of water required is quite large since 90% of the land in West Bengal is under rice cultivation.  The arsenic content in the water pumped for irrigation is same as that mentioned above. A recent study conducted in parts of West Bengal has revealed that paddy crop has maximum concentration of arsenic scavenged from groundwater. The arsenic content in rice grain is 0.3 mg/L, in husk it is 1 mg/L and in the steam and leaves it is > than 2 mg/L. The root accumulate large amount of arsenic. In the present study it was found to be as high as 169 mg/L. Except roots, all parts of rice plant is eaten by humans and animals. Now are in an arsenic web!! Now this problem is no longer confined to West Bengal and Bangladesh. Besides rice, the vegetable cultivated through irrigation also have high levels of arsenic.  Common leafy vegetable like Red Spinach, Amaranth, Chinese Spinach, Indian Spinach have arsenic content > 0.3 mg/L.  With the growing awareness on contaminated groundwater, arsenic contamination is slowly surfacing in other parts of the country.  Arsenic contaminated groundwater is reported within the Godavari sub-basins bordering Chattisgarh.  Millions of population depend on groundwater in the rural areas. Both arsenic and fluoride has become a nightmare to rural population.   

 

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Food and Water Security