Acknowledging that more than 5,000 wards in the state receive arsenic-contaminated water, the Bihar government today said work was underway to provide safe supply to people by the end of 2020.
At a seminar here, Public Health Engineering Department Minister Vinod Narayan Jha said lab tests have found arsenic traces in groundwater of 5246 wards in Bihar.
"In the first phase in the current fiscal 2018-19, the government will ensure arsenic-free safe drinking water in 2556 wards. In the remaining wards, work will be carried out in the next fiscal," the minister said.
Organised by Sulabh International and Sahyog Trust, a Patna-based charitable organization, the seminar was attended by BJP MLA Sanjay Saraogi and the chairman of West Bengal task force on arsenic water, K J Nath.
Dwelling on the enormity of the problem, the minister said arsenic proportion was particularly high on both sides of Ganga, especially areas within 20km of the river banks.
"The state government is committed to provide water supply free of arsenic, fluoride and iron to the people and for that funds will never be a problem. We will make arrangements to provide piped drinking water from the surface of Ganga instead of sourcing it from the ground," he said.
The PHED minister also said that Bihar has 110 quality-testing labs across its 38 districts.
He exhorted people to check the quality of water they are drinking at these laboratories for free.
"People can get certificates about the quality of water they are drinking within 24 hours of submitting samples," Jha added.
Talking about the "Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal" scheme of the Nitish Kumar-led government, the minister said that the scheme was appreciated at a recently held conference, where NITI Aayog officials asked other states to emulate the model.
"We have taken Rs 1,606 crore from World Bank for the scheme. Besides, a loan of Rs 2,400 crore has also been sanctioned vy Asian Development Bank for supplying iron-free water. We will use the sunds after utilising our budgetary allocation for the purpose," the minister added.
Speaking on the occasion, Sulabh International Founder Bindeshwar Pathak said a water purification project, which was implemented successfully South 24 Parganas of West Bengal, has been introduced in Darbhanga district of Bihar.
"Various studies including the one by Central Water Commission has noted that water in almost 40 per cent of the districts of Bihar and West Bengal contain arsenic above permissible limits," he stated.
BJP MLA Sanjay Saraogi stressed on creating awareness in the state to deal with the problem.
"It is important to raise awareness about maintaining hygiene and consuming clean drinking water among all people of the state," he added.