Arsenic Poisoning in West Bengal : Treatment Plant



Arsenic Removal and Problems Associated with It

The treatment plants installed are of Pal Trockner but the hand tube-wells with which these are assembled are either of villagers or from Gram Panchayet. It has been noticed that this combination in many cases are not matching properly and caused problems. These problems are:
1. Washers are frequently damaged. The packing used in the tubewells do not work properly either. The valve fitted to the mouth of the tubewells, which ensures arsenic-free water when closed, and water with arsenic for purposes other than drinking when open, is jammed in many cases due to mechanical defect. Thus villagers are forced to use costly arsenic-contamination free water for their house hold purposes.
2. Mechanical defects cause the handle of the tubewells to spring up suddenly when depressed. In Ghoramara Gram Panchayat, the Harurpara plant has given 2 stitches on the forehead of Safura Bibi. Amina Bibi too has a cracked forehead.
3. Pal- Trockener has appointed some mechanics to maintain the plants. Villagers report that these mechanics come irregularly. 80% of the treatment plants in Domkol become inoperative periodically. Only 20% of the plants are problem-free after installation. The plant at Bhanwarlal Crossing under Azimgunge Gram Panchayat has been inoperative so frequently that villagers have removed it to the mosque nearby. (21.5.2001).
4. In front of Comrade Jalil Mandal's house in Aminabad village under Juginda Gram Panchayat there is a plant. Sahidul Biswas, a local resident says, "The plant has been installed some 2 months ago. No mechanic has attended to it since then." Under the same Panchayat, in Madhupur village, there is another plant. The pipe of the hand tubewell leaks. Villagers some how managed it with a bicycle pipe. The mechanic, when informed, said he did not have a proper pipe to replace the leaking one.
5. Malek Mandal of Chanderpara under Raipur Gram Panchayat says that their plant was installed around 2 months ago, and has already broken down 10-12 times. Villagers do patchwork repairs, as the mechanic, even when informed, does not come regularly. In addition, Malek Mandal reported, if the mechanic makes one visit, he makes the villagers certify to his having made three such visits, as his salary depends on the number of visits certified by the villagers. The plant in central Garibpur village of Garibpur Gram Panchayat was set up 3 months ago and broke down within 10 days. No mechanic could repair it (26-5-2001).
6. The plant in front of Abdul Khalek's house in Mominpur village of Ghoramara Gram Panchayat has a broken pipe which connects hand tube-well with treatment plant, and no mechanic has come to repair it up to 29-5-2001.
7. If not periodically cleaned, the plants yield yellow water and villagers do not use it. Out of 49-treatment plant installed this is something true of all except 8-10 of the plants.
8. As the villagers do not have to pay for the water obtained from these plants, they sometimes use it for bathing, washing clothes, and for providing water for cattle. If some villagers object, they are told, "This is Government water, not someone's private property."

A report on the arsenic content in the tubewells linked to arsenic-removal plants in Domkal block of Murshidabad district.

One expects plants to be attached to those tubewells, the water from which contains arsenic well above the highest tolerable limit, and which villagers use to obtain drinking water from. One also expects plants to be set up in villages where many are affected by arsenic-related diseases.

In Domkal block, out of 49 plants installed we found 34 plants operational (not continuous) in the last 4 months. We have collected water samples from these 34 plants both before and after purification and have analyzed both arsenic and iron.

Table-1 specifies the panchayats and the location in Domkal block where the plants have been set up. It also specifies the arsenic level in the tubewells both before and after passing through the arsenic removal plants.