The problem of arsenic poisoning is a rising concern in India. A look at the data will perhaps help us understand the gravity of the situation.
In India, over a million people have died in the last 30 years because of the presence of arsenic in drinking water, according to Saurabh Singh, founder of the Inner Voice Foundation, an organisation that works to address arsenic water contamination.
High Arsenic Contamination- A grave issue
A study found that at least 108 countries are affected by arsenic contamination in groundwater. The highest among these are from Asia (32) and Europe (31), followed by regions like Africa (20), North America (11), South America (9) and Australia (4).
A study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, said that almost 20 per cent of India's total land area has toxic levels of arsenic in its groundwater, exposing more than 250 million people across the country to the poisonous element. It is estimated that 20 states and four Union Territories in the country are affected by this problem now, said another study.
The states of Punjab (92 per cent), Bihar (70 per cent ), West Bengal (69 per cent ), Assam (48 per cent ), Haryana (43 per cent ), Uttar Pradesh (28 per cent ), and Gujarat (24 per cent ) show the highest areal extent of elevated groundwater arsenic zones. Most of these high arsenic areas are mostly located along the Indus-Ganga-Brahmaputra river basin and in pockets in Peninsular India.
What Is The Permissible Limit?
The recommended limit is 10 10ug/l. Arsenic contamination in communities across India has increased by 145 per cent in the past five years, according to a report by The Guardian. In rural parts of the country, it is wreaking havoc in the lives of people. Arsenic contamination in India was widespread in the 1990s in West Bengal and later in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Manipur.
A study in Bihar found high levels of arsenic in water samples from hand pumps installed to access groundwater for drinking. In fact, a study found that 22 of the 38 districts in the state had arsenic above permissible limits.
What Effect Does It Have?
Arsenic contamination in groundwater has been associated with neurological and cardiovascular disease and other serious health concerns, including lung cancer, diabetes and stillbirths. Exposure to high concentrations of arsenic during pregnancy is associated with a six-fold increased risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, preterm births, low birth weight and neonatal deaths.