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Low cost drinking water boon for arsenic hit Bengal villages


Press Trust of India Kolkata
A project to convert contaminated surface water into potable water taken up by an NGO with the help of a French organisation has helped check diseases in about a dozen arsenic prone villages on Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal, the chief of the NGO said today.
The cases of arsenic-related diseases have dropped within three years in villages of North 24 Parganas district bordering Bangladesh where Sulabh International, with the help of French organisation "1001 Fontaines", introduced a pilot project of water treatment.
One of the four pilot projects taken up around three years ago at Madhusudan Kanti Village of Bangaon subdivision, about 100 km from here, produces around 8,000 litres of safe drinking water, Sulabh International founder Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, the brain behind the water project, said.
It is being made available at the nominal cost of 50 paise per litre to the villagers, said Pathak who was recently honoured with Japan's prestigious 'Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture and Community' for his work in tackling poor hygiene and discrimination.
"In course of periodic medical checkup of a group of patients suffering from arsenic-related diseases, it has been revealed that this water purification system has become boon for them," Pathak said.
Accompanied by senior Bihar BJP MLA Sanjay Saraogi, Pathak visited the project site today.
Saraogi, who represents Darbhanga assembly seat, said the water treatment project would be a great help in his area and other parts of Bihar gripped with arsenic problem.
Besides Madhusudan Kanti, similar projects have been launched in three other places in Murshidabad and Nadia districts of West Bengal around the same time.
Around a thousand families of Madhusudan Kanti and around a dozen villages under Bongoan sub-division are now using purified water, and it checked diseases of the people and improved their health conditions, project in-charge Haldhar Sarkar said.
A vast area along Bangladesh border is affected by high level of arsenic contamination causing serious diseases including cancer.
According to WHO, drinking arsenic-rich water over a long period results in various health hazards such as cancer of skin, bladder, kidney and lung.
Around three years ago, Sulabh International, the NGO that introduced the concept of "Sulabh Sauchalya" in the country decades ago, introduced the 'Sulabh Jal' project.
The 'Sulabh Jal' project converts contaminated pond water into safe drinking water that can be sold at only 50 paise per litre in villages and nearby cities of the country, the project in-charge said.
In the innovative model, water is taken from a river or a pond, it goes through various stages of purification, Sarkar added.
"This is the first time in the world that we have succeeded in producing pure drinking water at a very nominal cost and villagers may get direct benefit," Pathak said adding it is being sold at 50 paise a litre after including other costs like distribution and storing.

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First Published: Jun 29 2018 | 5:40 PM IST

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