Poisonous groundwater a national health crisis in India
Depletion of groundwater and its increasing pollution could be leading to a silent, nationwide public health crisis as aquifers in many stretches across India are becoming unfit for drinking, according to the government’s own figures.
Data submitted in Parliament by the water resources ministry on Monday shows groundwater in pockets of 158 out of the 639 districts has gone saline. It says in pockets across 267 districts, groundwater contains excess fluoride; in 385 districts, it has nitrates beyond permissible levels; in 53 there’s arsenic and there’s high level of iron in 270 districts.
Besides this, aquifers in 63 districts contain heavy metals like lead, chromium and cadmium, the presence of which in any concentration poses a danger.
The record submitted in answer to a question by Congress MP Shruti Chowdhry presents a countrywide map of where groundwater has become unfit for drinking and where contamination levels have breached government standards of safety.
In Delhi, a number of areas are not safe to draw groundwater from. Aquifers in north, west and southwest districts along the Najafgarh drain contain lead. The southwest district has cadmium and northwest, south and east Delhi have chromium, rendering the water not just bad but dangerous to drink.
Adding to the danger is the fact that only about 65% of the city’s population (predominantly in the better-off localities) is serviced by the water supply system of Delhi Jal Board. Besides heavy metal contamination, fluoride has been found in aquifers in New Delhi and those in east, central, north, northwest, south, southwest and west Delhi.