Arsenic Poisoning in West Bengal : Treatment Plant

FATE OF THREE CRORE RUPEE ARSENIC REMOVAL PLANTS IN MURSHIDABAD

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At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 19th December, 2000, Shree Nandagopal Bhattacharya, Honourable Minister of Water Resources Development, and Shree Anisur Rahman, Honourable Minister of Animal Resources Development formally inaugurated an arsenic-removal plant at Rajapur village in Domkal (Figure-1).

Since then, up to May 2001, Domkal block alone has had almost 50 such plants set up by Pal Trockener. Its director, Mr. Pal, informs us that the company has approval for installing 573 such plants in all of Murshidabad. The approval figures for all arsenic-affected areas of West Bengal exceed 800. The company has installed many such plants in Bangladesh as well.

Description of Pal Trockener Plants in Murshidabad

A. Cost of each plant : Rs. 52560/-
B. Assuming 1000 microgram of arsenic per litre in tubewell water, a plant can remove arsenic from up to 4 lakh litres. Replacement of the plant's 2 columns at a cost of Rs.20000/- will make the plant functional again.
C. Of the 2 columns, the first removes iron, the second arsenic.
D. To ensure supply of arsenic-free water, periodic backwashing of the plant is essential. Yellow liquid coming out of the plant indicates need of immediate cleaning.
E. Figure-2 shows the Flow-Sheet diagram of Pal-Trockener technology.

A report follows on the 49 arsenic-removal plants in Domkal block on the basis of investigations made over the last 4 months by the School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University.

From Domkal Block, 3246 water samples were analyzed for arsenic by us from 13 Gram Panchayats. In 70% of the cases the arsenic level exceeds that fixed by the WHO (10 microgram/litre). In 35%, the level exceeds 50 microgram/litre (maximum permissible limit). Primary investigations have revealed 1168 patients (names, addresses and details of arsenical skin lesions in the body registered). A complete investigation will push up this figure considerably. Villagers, who have requested the Government to ensure supply of arsenic-free water for many years, are delighted at plants being set up. Villagers imagined that operation of these treatment plants would be similar to hand-operated tubewells, which the villagers have used for the last 40 years. However, there are problems.

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