Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Removing Fluoride Contamination, from SPWD, Udaipur by Pankaj Kumar S, Ramya Gopalan

Contamination of drinking water with excess fluoride consequent fluorosis is a massive problem affecting increasingly large populations in Rajasthan and other states of India, even more widespread than the arsenic problem. In this context, the query on treatment measures of fluoride contaminated water and testing its impact on human body evoked a wide range of responses and suggestions.

The major reason for such contamination, felt members, was the presence of flouride contributing zones and aquifers, which need to be delineated for effective mitigation. Among the various methods of fluoride mitigation, members mentioned the Nalgonda technique (using alum, lime and bleaching powder to precipitate fluoride salts from water) as one of the earliest defluoriding techniques. However, they reported that attempts to get panchayats to take up fluoride mitigation in Nalgonda district, Andhra Pradesh and other parts of the country have not provided desired results due to inadequate technical and financial capacity of panchayats, incomplete disposajl of hazardous wastes, and lack of demand from stakeholders. Nevertheless, a de-fluoridisation Corporate Social Responsibility project in Nalgonda cited by members appeared to be quite successful in providing safe drinking water to village people at a low cost. Respondents report that the use of activated alumina filters has been quite successful in achieving a household level of outreach at low costs. They also cited the UNICEF-promoted three-tier filter as a good example. The filter calls for adding an activated alumina chamber to a normal two-chamber candle filter. However, activated alumina need to regeneration every three months. This implies recurring costs (about Rs. 30 for 3 kg) and skilled labor to test the filtered water and to change degenerated filters. Participants suggested that the cost of regeneration of alumina be subsidized in some districts, and the capacity of self-help groups and village entrepreneurs be enhanced to carry out testing and changing of filters.

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