The West Bengal government has drawn up a master plan for providing arsenic free water to all the affected areas but the people need to be sensitised on the issue, experts said at a discussion on dwindling freshwater resources.
The plan has been drawn up in consultation with the Arsenic Task Force, they said.
President of the Institute of Pubic Health Engineers K J Nath said at the discussion that most advanced and latest technologies have been used in the arsenic removal units attached to approximately 400 tubewells installed by the state government as part of the masterplan.
But many of these tubewells have various kinds of operational problems like damage to mega piped water schemes fed from arsenic free surface water sources (mostly the Hooghly river) by miscreants who cut pipe lines and steal valves. The locals have to be sensitised to take care of the projects, he said at a discussion 'Dwindling Freshwater Resources and Challenges of Fluoride and Arsenic Mitigation of Ground Water : Role of Innovative Technology' in collaboration with Lehigh University, USA.
He advocated strict vigilance by the law enforcing authorities and effective mass awareness campaign to sensitize the people.
Nath said the progress in implementing the master plan has been slow because of financial crunch caused by drop in Central assistance and the resource crunch.
Delivering the keynote address, Arup K Sengupta of Lehigh University said to combat the problem of arsenic contamination in water, we must look at alternative sources of water for villages and districts where the arsenic level is high.
"Transforming wastewater into useful water through appropriate technology could be implemented as a solution," he said.
Recent epidemiological studies in the state, sponsored by the Arsenic Task Force and supported by PHED/UNICEF, show that in South 24 Parganas district of the 7683 people examined in 57 arsenic-affected villages, the prevalence of arsenical skin lesion was found to be 4.6 per cent.
The study said in Nadia district, the same is found to be 15 per cent.
The Arsenic Task Force is an advisory body set up by the state government and comprise experts from different academic and research institutes of West Bengal and representatives of various state and central government departments like pollution control board, health and family welfare, surface water investigation, GSI, Department of Science and Technology and the referral state-run SSKM Hospital.
It coordinates and interacts with various other sectors for successful implementation of arsenic removal programmes in the state.
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