Governance and Management of high arsenic Ground water based Drinking water supply in India
Dr. S.P. Sinha Ray
(Retd.) Member, Central Ground Water Board
Emeritus President, Centre for Ground Water Studies, Kolkata
Member, International Association of Hydrogeologists
The high concentration of arsenic in ground water of the alluvial plains of Ganga Basin comprising the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and west Bengal as also in neighboring country, Bangladesh has emerged as a major drinking water issue, since ground water provides the main sources of drinking water in these areas. Significant researches are being carried out to understand the areal extent of contamination, causes of arsenic mobilization in ground water, impact of human health hazards, remedial interventions etc. The impact of excess arsenic in ground water (more than 10 ppb) has caused considerable concerns, both for drinking water and food chain. It has, therefore, become imperative to evolve a policy framework to address such arsenic menace so that sustainable remedial measures can be developed and to provide relief by supplying safe water to the suffering millions. High arsenic in ground water has been detected in the state of West Bengal in India restricted mainly in the lower gangetic valley since 1983. The maximum number of arsenic affected population due to ingestion of contaminated groundwater has been reported from the state. A concerted and well conceived plan to mitigate the arsenic menace is being practiced here by the Government of West Bengal who is primarily responsible for safe drinking water supply in the rural areas. Arsenic Task Force for the state of West Bengal has been set up in the year 1994 whose task is to plan and overview the progress and monitoring of the mitigation measures being under taken. Apart from short term mitigation measures, long term solutions to provide sustainable drinking water supply to the arsenic affected areas have been executed which have been discussed in the paper. In addition to utilization of treated surface water sources a number of treatment techniques of contaminated ground water are in use for dearsenification of water. Awareness generation and behavior change communication are proving to be quite useful. People’s participation in execution and maintenance of the community drinking water supply projects are being encouraged. Other Arsenic affected states in India are also taking suitable measures based on their research findings and successful implementation of projects in west Bengal. Government of India is also taking keen interest in coordinating the efforts among the various arsenic affected states.
Keywords: Arsenic Mitigation, Technological options, Sustainable mitigation measures, Behavior Change.