It’s a water problem of a different kind in Kalahandi. Unlike other parts of the State which are reeling under water scarcity, Kalahandi has a good number of water bodies, albeit many of them are high on chemical content.
According to Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS), Kalahandi division, there are 16,909 tubewells, 830 wells and 239 piped water supply projects in rural areas of the district. Under Bhawanipatna Municipality, PHD has 572 tubewells, 205 under Kesinga NAC and 100 in Junagarh NAC to meet the water needs. Locals, though, said the water they drink is laced with chemicals beyond permissible limits.
Sources said at many places, people have sunk tubewells in their houses which also affect the water table. Both the Rural Water Supply Department (RWSS) and the PHD do not have any figure on the number of private tubewells sunk so far in rural and urban areas of the district and there is no mechanism to monitor or test the groundwater before allowing sinking of tubewells by individuals. Such indiscriminate and unplanned sinking of tubewells can affect the water table of wells which have been the traditional method of getting drinking water.
The RWSS and Central Ground Water Board, however, test the quality of water from public tubewells in the district and according to one such test report, there is high level of nitrate, iron and fluoride in shallow and deep aquifers in many parts of the district.
The permissible limit of nitrate is 0.3 mg per litre, iron 1.5 mg and fluoride 1.5 mg per litre. But, as per the test report, iron content is between 1.4 mg and 2.3 mg per litre in villages like Tarapur, Padigaon, Khamarhaldi, Makarsola, Jakabaheli, Baddharpur, Kesala and Sirpur. Similarly, high quantity of nitrate has been reported in Kesinga, Dharamagarh, Baldiamal, Sargiguda, Badbasul, Pastikudi, Daspur and Narla villages. There is no respite from fluoride either.
Ironically, authorities have failed to take preventive steps by way of regular testing of tubewell water and providing alternative safe drinking water in the affected pockets.
Gohirapadar village in Narla block, situated along the State Highway and only 20 km from the district headquarters, is a pointer. High percentage of fluoride was traced in tubewell water and fluorosis-related ailments were reported in a number of villages in and around Gohirapadar such as Ghugurbahal and Suknabhata six years back. Promptly, the Rural Water Supply Department swung into action and asked the villagers not to use tubewell water.
As an alternative, it declared to supply safe pipe water to the villagers. Though pipe water supply was ensured, it was done by sinking a deep borewell in the village where high percentage of fluoride was also traced. Now, almost all the children of the area are suffering from dental fluorosis.
At Gohirapadar village, fluoride level is 2.02 mg per litre of water, 1.8 mg in Brundabahal of Golamunda block, Limser 1.8 mg and at Bordipada, Grindul, Bandhpada, Tumura, Badbhuin and Hanspada villages the level is 1.6 mg per litre of water.
In Bhawanipatna town, water has calcium carbonate which makes it corrosive and hard.
Executive Engineer of RWSS division, Kalahandi, Bijayanand Samantrai said steps will be taken soon to provide pipe water from rivers to Gohiapadar and Barabakhara villages.
Samantrai said in rural areas of Kalahandi, there are 200 piped water supply projects of which, 131 are borewell-based, 65 from rivers by digging intake wells and 24 are sourced from springs using hydraulic pressure. In future, river-based piped water projects will be set up in Kalahandi and borewell-based piped water supply projects converted to river-based ones in phases, he added.