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Think before you drink A'bad ground water Sunday, July 8, 2001
By Shyam Parekh, The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD: Water, the proverbial elixir of life can actually be a threat to your health, if you are one of the million odd residents of the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority areas surviving on the water drawn from bore-wells.
Chemical investigation of the water samples collected from the western parts of city in the AUDA limits has clearly demonstrated that at most places the quality of water does not meet the requirements stipulated by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
The tests specially carried out by 'The Times of India' have revealed that the levels of pH, total hardness, chloride, dissolved solids and fluoride are in excess and in some cases are unfit for drinking.
Hence if you have joint or body aches, arthritis, dental decay, skeletal fluorosis, gastro-intenstinal irritation, effect on mucous membrane, kidney stones, blood pressure, deposits of encrustations in arteries and kidneys and a few other disorders, then blame the water!
The investigations specially carried out by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) and the Consumer Education Research Society (CERS) suggest that the fluoride levels at many places do not meet the requirements specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (first revised 1991) at 1 mg per litre.
However, it complies with the relaxed permissible standards set by the BIS at 1.5 mg per litre, in the absence of alternative source of water.
But the fact that intake of dissolved fluorides increases in warmer places like Ahmedabad, as people tend to drink more water, is neglected in the current BIS standards. The BIS had earlier provided for 0.6-0.8 mgs per litre for warmer places like Ahmedabad, following World Health Organisation recommendations.
Joint director scientific MS Marsani, of the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board believes that with time standards need to be changed, compelled by the changes in scientific understanding and human adaptability.
"It is true that very high levels of totally dissolved solids and fluoride are seen in random pockets in some of these areas. However, not much effect is seen on health. Probably because of self-purification or acclimatisation", he says
"The ground water quality in Ahmedabad is as such not very good when compared to other places. The sum total of the constituents in water affects the taste as well as the health of the consumer. But we are not aware of them and their effects and unmindfully drink water as we are totally dependent on supplies" says regional director of the CGWB Dr A K Sinha.
He says that often it is not possible to bring them down to the laid standards and as a result we almost compromise on the standards .
However, 'WHO Guidelines for drinking-water quality' states that fluoride may give rise to mild dental fluorosis at drinking-water concentrations between 0.9 and 1.2 mg per litre.
Dean Government Dental College, Ahmedabad Dr KH Shah opines, "Levels above 0.9 can cause dental fluorosis, brittle and yellow teeth, cavities and other problems which are quite common in North Gujarat and Saurashtra. However, no specialised studies have been carried here. Besides the effect cannot be properly judged if people have come and settled here from outside".
Similarly there is much variation in the standards for the TDS too. While WHO desires TDS to be at 1000 units, Indian standards range between 500 to 2000. All the samples tested cross the WHO standards and are very near to the permissible limits.
All the samples have very high sodium content, some have more than double the prescribed WHO limit (BSI has not set any norms for sodium). "High sodium and chloride content in water gives it the familiar salty taste which also adds to the our salt intake and definitely not good for people with blood-pressure patients" says CGWB scientist PK Parchure.
Use of mineral water or purifying devices is not always the solution if it does not remove particular constituents which are in excess. "Most of the purifiers are useless for fluoride and TDS removals, except techniques like reverse osmosis and Nalgonda technique," he says.
However, AUDA is not the only area affected by fluoride. State of the Environment report of the Gujarat Ecology Commission shows that 48 talukas in 20 districts across the state share the same plight.
News Source : Times Of India News Service [ Lightning News ]