By Swati Ekka
Panduranga, a villager of Tujaram Nayak tanda in Sirwar, cannot access filter water as there is no filter water station near his village. His family cannot avail of the benefit, as the government fails to provide safe drinking facilities to many villages in Sirwar.
Mr. Pandu Ranga, said “ We use groundwater for all purposes. If we need filtered water then I have to travel fifteen kilometers to get purified water. The regular use of unfiltered water has caused me severe joint pain. It has also caused a lot of iron and calcium deficiency to my wife.”
“I have also written a letter to Gram panchayat, demanding a water treatment plant near our village but they have not looked into the matter.”
In Sirwar Taluk of Raichur district of Karnataka, people are compelled to use underground water as there are very few Reverse Osmosis (RO) water purifiers in the villages. The District health office reports tell us that the underground water which people use has a high level of fluoride in it. This consumption of fluoride contaminated water for years which result in fluorosis. Signs of dental and skeletal fluorosis are visible in people of Sirwar. The main cause of the problem is that there are only two RO water purifiers on the main road. People living in remote villages in Sirwar are not able to take the benefit of filter water as they are far from the village.
The population of Sirwar is 19,295 and all demand filtered water. The RO stations are fifteen to twelve kilometers from the remote villages, making it difficult for the villagers to access filter water from the RO water stations.
Mr. Om Prakash, Chief of Gram Panchayat said, “There are two-three water purifying stations in Sirwar and people usually take drinking water from these purifiers. We have proposed the budget to the government as soon as we get funds we will install new water purifiers.”
Iramma who lives in Murkhiguda village said, “I suffer a lot of joint pain and I am not able to do my day to day work as my body aches a lot. There is no filter water station near our village and we use water from the well. We have been using this water since childhood and since then the gram panchayat has not bothered to put water treatment plants in our village after knowing that the underground water has a high level of fluoride.”
Many old Lambani women who live in Mukhiguda village complain of knee pain. They also face difficulty in walking for long hours and also in doing their household work.
Dr. Sunil Sarode head of Primary Health Center in Sirwar said, “ Every month 50 to 40 patients including women and men come to our PHC with the problem of joint pain. This could be one of the symptoms of fluorosis as many people are drinking unfiltered water. Drinking this unfiltered water with a high level of fluoride can also cause early arthritis, dental fluorosis, and skeletal fluorosis in people.”
Reports of Drinking water samples tested for fluoride level shows, in Raichur District out of 137 villages 15 villages have more than 3 PPM (parts per million ) of fluoride, 36 villages come under 1[-3 PPM and 86 villages are less than 1 PPM.
The Central Groundwater Authority reports state that the Raichur district of Karnataka has non-permissible levels of fluoride in many villages. In the Southeastern belt of Karnataka fluoride levels are high in shallow groundwater as well. The belt covers Gulbarga, Raichur, Bellary, Chitradurga, Tumkur, and Kolar. Hathiguddur in Gulbarga district has a fluoride level of 7.4 mg/l, while 5.75 mg/l is seen in Farhatabad.
The Government has conducted a survey called the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis (NPPCF) which shows the level of fluorosis has spread across a particular area. In Karnataka, the NPPCF program is being implemented in 19 districts of Karnataka. National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis(NPPCF) Reports for 2018-19 show 14804 cases of confirmed Dental fluorosis 6116 cases of confirmed skeletal fluorosis 4221 cases of non-skeletal fluorosis in whole Karnataka.
Reports as per the District Health Department of Raichur shows 3686 cases of confirmed Dental fluorosis in children 8709 cases of confirmed dental fluorosis in households and 267 cases of confirmed skeletal fluorosis in households (joint pain and joint movement rigidity cases are major).
Takul health officer Mr. Guruprasad said “We conduct a survey on a sampling basis. If we visit 10 houses in a village we get seven to eight cases of suspected skeletal fluorosis. The numbers may vary if a complete survey of a particular village is done.”
“Long term exposure to fluoride in food and water can cause serious health problems. It has an adverse effect on pregnant women and it also affects the development of memory and intelligence,”Taluk health officer added.
The United States National Research Council reveals that one in 100 additional cancer deaths could be possible from lifetime exposure to drinking water containing 50μg/L of fluoride
PHC in Sirwar has a dentist which visits only twice a week and people suffering from dental fluorosis have to go to a private dental clinic in Sirwar. The charges of a private dental clinic are comparatively more than what is charged in government hospitals.
Mr. Muddaguppa, Executive officer at Women and child Development office(WCDO) said, “There are 247 Anganwadis and only 30 have filter water facilities in the district.” So far as per (NPPCF) 742 people are aided with physiotherapy/orthoses and No. of beneficiaries provided with mobility aids is 349.
The problem is not confined to Sirwar only but also prevails in other villages of Raichur. Nagalapura village which is half a kilometer away from Raichur, has a lot of people who are suffering from skeletal fluorosis and dental fluorosis.
Lakshmi, a villager who is 46 years is not able to walk, she complains of stiffness in her muscles and she also complains that she cannot move her head freely.
“I have been suffering from this illness for the past 6-7 years and I am not able to work properly, not able to move my arms and neck freely. Day by day it is becoming painful to even move my body from one place to another. I cannot work properly in my field as most of the time I am not able to stand for a longer period,” she added.
Seven people have died from Fluorosis in Nagalpur because the ppm level is more than 3 and the water is not fit for drinking as explained by the District health office of Raichur. Still, the government failed to provide a solution to this problem a
Anganwadi teacher in Naglapur village, Sarada said, “Seven to six people have died last year as they were bedridden and not able to move their body. Their hands and backbone were like bananas and they were experiencing pain in their whole body.”
“I have also requested political parties who come to our village during election campaigning to provide us with a filter station but nothing happened. They just want us to vote for them but they are not willing to help.
“It’s been six month the health department put up a filter station after they did a survey and got to know that many people are dying due to this.
Skeletal fluorosis is not the only problem people are suffering, dental fluorosis is also eating the people in Nagalapur.
Narsamma another villager who complains that her gums bleed when she brushes her teeth and the color has also turned to yellow with patches.
Laxmi Viswanath Swamy, another villager, a victim of skeletal fluorosis said, “This problem has been prevailing in our village for a very long time and there is no permanent solution for our pain. My body has been permanently damaged. It cannot be cured at least the government should provide free equipment such as crutches and wheelchairs for people who are disorganized with skeletal fluorosis also anti fluorosis toothpaste for people suffering from dental fluorosis.”
“Fluorosis is an irreversible and cureless disease which rural people are not able to escape as they are unaware of the cause. This should be taken care of from ground level by providing RO purifiers in villages and spreading awareness among the people,” Guruprashad Health officer of the District health department added.
In India, 230 districts of 20 states are reported with high fluoride levels.
Approximately 115.7 lakh people are affected. Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh are the worst affected Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka are moderately affected while Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam are mildly affected as learned by the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis (NPPCF)
The Ministry of Drinking water and Sanitation, shows there are 14,053 inhabitants from 17 states who still don’t have the facility of safe drinking water.
Dr. Angelin Priya, assistant professor at Peoples College of Medical Science, Bhopal said, “The women are mostly affected because they are weak and because of lack of proper nutrients they suffer from Osteoporosis(bone diseases) at an early age. In rural areas, women do not get proper nutritions food which causes anemia and a weak immune system. Ultimately the effect of drinking contaminated water is seen more in women.
“The Government should aware women about a balanced diet and provide free supplement tablets and affect people should be given Fluoride supplements in the form of toothpaste and pill,” she added.
“People should be given the training to save rainwater such as rainwater harvesting techniques so they can use it on time instead of using contaminated groundwater,” said Dr. NaliniJessica Minjis, Department of Defence.
Guru Prashad said, “Yes rainwater harvesting is a very good alternative but district administration should also take interest in providing such measures. The Government should invest in rainwater harvesting but they are unable because of inadequate funds.
“With proper rainwater harvesting equipment and keeping in mind the average rainfall of Raichur we can save water which can be used for at least three months. This will help people in remote villages who cannot avail of pure water facilities.”