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Arsenic and Fluoride Contamination

Why is it in the news?

  • The National Green Tribunal has directed notices to 24 states and four Union Territories due to concerns over the presence of arsenic and fluoride in groundwater.

Factors Responsible for Contamination:

  • Certain geological formations, notably the Gangetic plain, are known for naturally occurring elevated levels of arsenic, which leaches into groundwater from rocks and sediments.
  • Geological conditions, including the presence of fluoride-rich minerals like fluorite, can lead to groundwater contamination with fluoride.
  • Excessive use of groundwater for irrigation contributes to the mobilization of arsenic and fluoride.
  • Over-extraction of groundwater can alter geochemical conditions, leading to the release of these contaminants.
  • Changes in precipitation can influence the leaching of arsenic and fluoride from geological formations.
  • Certain human activities like mining and industrial processes can elevate arsenic levels in groundwater. The use of arsenic-containing pesticides and fertilizers may also contribute.
  • Industrial discharges, especially from aluminium, ceramic, and phosphate industries, can contribute to fluoride contamination.


Health Concerns

  • Chronic exposure to arsenic can result in skin, vascular, nervous-system ailments, or cancer.
  • Excess fluoride can cause dental mottling, a largely cosmetic issue, and, at higher concentrations, skeletal fluorosis, leading to debilitating stiffening of joints.


Government Steps to Curb Contamination

  • The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) plays a crucial role in generating groundwater quality data through monitoring programs and scientific studies.
  • CGWB employs cement sealing technology to construct arsenic-free wells in affected areas, tapping contamination-free aquifers.
  • The Government of India, in collaboration with states, is implementing the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) to provide potable tap water supply to every rural household. This initiative addresses water quality concerns.
  • In fund allocation, 10% weightage is given to the population residing in habitations affected by chemical contaminants.
  • Launched in 2017, National Water Quality Sub-Mission (NWQSM), as part of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), aims to provide safe drinking water to arsenic/fluoride-affected rural habitations.
  • The Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) focuses on the development of basic urban infrastructure, including water supply and sewerage management, in selected cities and towns.

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