Groundwater contamination due to arsenic, fluoride not being effectively addressed: NGT

CGWA has a total of 16 chemical laboratories in India, of which 10 labs are NABL-certified where 27,500 to 32,500 water samples are tested every year

By Vivek Mishra
Published: Friday 23 February 2024
Representational Photo from iStock

The problem of toxic arsenic and fluoride in groundwater across various areas of the country is not being effectively addressed by the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA). The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on February 6, 2024, said the reply filed by the CGWA on the matter was a “very generic response”. “From the report, it appears that no concrete steps have been taken by the CGWA to address the problem,” the tribunal said.

The bench said the report of the CGWA should clearly state the places where concrete steps have been taken to address arsenic and fluoride in groundwater or whether alternative drinking water is being provided to the people there.

The bench of NGT Chairman Justice Prakash Srivastava has taken suo motu cognizance of the matter on the basis of a report. The report said groundwater contamination due to arsenic is prevalent in 230 districts across 25 states of India while that caused due to fluoride is prevalent in 469 districts across 27 states.

The NGT observed that despite these elements having a very bad effect on the human body, the CGWA has not installed arsenic and fluoride removal plants in these areas. The bench directed the CGWA to file its reply again within six weeks.

The bench noted that CGWA has a total of 16 chemical laboratories in India, of which 10 labs are certified by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories. About 27,500 to 32,500 water samples are tested every year through these 16 labs.

These labs examine 15 major chemical parameters. These include pH, EC, calcium, magnesium, total hardness, sodium, potassium, iron, CO3, HCo3, SO4, PO4 and heavy trace elements like iron, manganese, copper, cadmium, chromium, lead, arsenic and uranium.

The bench also observed that some labs do not have a sample testing facility in Delhi and they need four months’ time to procure testing kits. At present, the NGT has postponed the next hearing of the case for April 26, 2024.

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