Arsenic found in groundwater in 15 Bihar districts: official

March 22nd, 2009 - 3:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, March 22 (IANS) High levels of arsenic have been found in the groundwater of 15 Bihar districts on either side of the Ganges river, posing the threat of cancer among people, an official said Sunday.
In view of the situation, the central ministry of water resources plans to take steps to control the spread, U.N. Panjiar, secretary to the water resources ministry, told IANS.

“A total of 57 blocks on either side of the river Ganges are affected by high level of arsenic in the groundwater,” he said, adding, “It is a matter of concern.”

Arsenic causes diseases like cancer of intestines, liver, kidneys and the bladder as well as gangrene.

“The ministry wants to take concrete steps to save the people from the high level of arsenic in groundwater in the state. There is an urgent need to find a cheaper arsenic removal technology.”

An official in Public Health and Engineering Department said the worst-affected districts are Bhojpur, Buxar, Vaishali, Bhagalpur, Samastipur, Khagaria, Katihar, Chapra, Munger and Darbhanga.

Harail Chapar, a village in Samastipur district, recorded the highest 2,100 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic in groundwater, the official added.

He said a survey conducted in the arsenic affected districts reveals that the deeper aquifers lying below 80 metre were free from arsenic.

The World Health Organisation guideline for a safe limit is 10 ppb, while the Indian government’s guideline is 50 ppb.

Last year, a state government report based on a survey of water samples collected at random from 19,961 tubewells in 398 villages, found that arsenic concentration was above 10 ppb in 310 villages and above 50 ppb in 235 villages.

Panjiar, who was here to attend a regional workshop on ‘Geogenic contamination of groundwater and artificial recharge’, said fluoride contamination was found in groundwater in nine districts, nitrate contamination in nine districts and iron contamination in 20 districts of Bihar.

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