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EVEN as diseases caused by arsenic-tainted water continue to ravage several districts of West Bengal, the state government has initiated a Rs 15-crore action plan to supply safe drinking water to the affected districts. The worst hit areas are Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, the 24 Parganas, Burdwan and Howrah. The state's minister for public health engineering, Gautam Deb, commented, "We have to arrange for safe drinking water on a war footing in these areas."
The Central government has so far approved only Rs 9.61 crore and has provided Rs 4.5 crore. According to Deb, the state government has spent Rs 2 crore during the past financial year to clean the water of arsenic in the affected areas. Also, 1,002 tubewells will be replaced at a cost of Rs 2.88 crore, he added.
Another plan envisages the sinking of tubewells in areas untouched by arsenic poisoning, and transporting the water to affected areas. The plan will cost Rs 9.62 crore. The state government also plans to set up arsenic removal plants in Sadipur and Sujpur. In addition, 100 arsenic filters have been sent to Malda district where not a single arsenic-free aquifer could be located.