Chandigarh, Mar 20 (UNI) The Punjab government today admitted that fluoride, which causes teeth and skeletal fluorosis, was found beyond permissible limits in the water available at shallow depths in parts of Malwa and Majha in the state.
Water Supply and Sanitation Minister Bikram Singh Majitjia told the state Assembly that skeletal fluorosis was a non reversible bone disease which is caused by excessive consumption of fluoride and it was spreading as people were using shallow depth and untreated water drawn from private sources.
Mr Majithia was replying to a call attention motion tabled in the House by Brahm Mohindra (Congress), who expressed concern over the increasing number of patients of the diseases, particularly in the border areas of Khem Karan and Patti in Tarn Taran district of the Majha belt.
He demanded immediate preventive steps to control the problem.
The Minister told the House that fluorosis in Khem Karan and Patti areas was being caused by naturally occurring fluoride salts in the ground.
No reference has, however, been received by the health department during past three years regarding the spread of skeletal fluorosis as "endemic" in this area, he added.
So far as preventive measures to tackle the problem of high contents of fluoride in Khem Karan and Patti area is concerned, the Minister stated that most of the villages of these areas have already been covered under the Rural Water Supply Scheme for potable drinking water supply and the water from such schemes does not carry any fluoride beyond permissible limits (1.5 ppm).
In the Khem Karan (Valtoha) area a total of 70 villages had been covered under the drinking water scheme and in Patti this number was 91, he added.
About 90 per cent of the habitations in the two areas had been covered under the Rural Water Supply Scheme. Remaining habitations have are also been targeted and these would be covered under the World Bank assisted Punjab Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project.
Wherever fluorosis content above permissible limits was detected, necessary remedial steps, such as installation of defloration plant or deeping of tubewells was being carried out, he added.
Giving details, Mr Majithia said the Department of Water Supply and Sanitation was entrusted with the work of providing potable drinking water to the rural population. There were 14,605 habitations and the Department has already covered 11,030 under the Rural Water Supply Scheme based on canal and deep tubewell as source of water.
Efforts were also being made to cover the remaining rural habitations with potable drinking water supply and to tackle the problem of water quality under various Rural Water Supply Programmes, he added.
The quality of water is periodically tested to ensure the availability of potable quality water as per parameters stipulated by Indian Standards as well as World Health Organisation (WHO), he pointed out.
He said the department had also conducted awareness campaigns and other activities through print and electronic media and exhibitions to spread the usage of potable quality drinking water.
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