headerlogo
Stay Connected

RO water too costly for Punjab’s poor in Malwa

 

 

In the Malwa belt of Punjab that is riddled with water problems, the Punjab government’s project to install water purifiers working on reverse osmosis (RO) theory does not seem to have yielded desired results, at least for the poor.

With the clean drinking water costing at least Rs 60 per month, the families of landless and small farmers, daily wagers and others like them continue to drink the same dirty water.

The Malwa belt, comprising mainly of the south-western Punjab, is one of the most backwards areas of the state. The water table here is very low and the water is brackish and full of pesticides, studies have found, concluding this as the reason for the high incidences of cancer among the people here.

The worst affected districts are Moga, Muktsar, Sangrur, Bathinda, Ferozepur and Faridkot.

“The RO system installed in our village is a mixed blessing. The water quality in our area is very poor and earlier we used always have this heavy feeling in our stomach but the situation has now changed. But paying for water is not right as we have some very poor families in the village who cannot afford this.

They, too, have a right to drink clean water,” says Darshan Singh, a farmer in Khai village And while the state is selling water at the rate of Rs 2 per 20 litres, the private enterprises involved in the project are also making hay, charging Rs 10 per 20 litres.

This area has three private concerns selling RO water. This water is, however, chilled, unlike the one sold by the state.

The Punjab Infrastructure Development Board will be setting up 373 RO systems in the villages of Faridkot, Tarn Taran, Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar and Sangrur districts. These are in addition to RO systems already working in 327 villages. These plants are set up with the help of agencies engaged through the water supply and sanitation department. While the Punjab government boasts of setting up RO systems in villages as a big achievement, experts say the technology being used is not right.

Says Magsaysay Award winner Rajender Singh of Tarun Bharat Sangh, who is called the “Waterman of India”: “The waste generated by the RO system is highly concentrated with impurities, which further deteriorates the quality of the water. This technology is a failure and should not be adopted by Punjab at all. Punjab needs to recharge its aquifers just as we have done in Rajasthan. The work is simple; we just need to identify aquifers in areas that are located at a height and where water quality is good. Just recharge the water there and we have water for the entire Malwa belt.”

He is also of the opinion that creation of a market for water will in turn create a divide between the poor and the rich.

“Selling water is violation of human rights. Just like food security Act, we need to have a water security Act, too. If we cannot allow people to die of hunger, we cannot let them die of thirst either,” says Singh.

 

 

Like other heavy metals, uranium can not be neutralised by the RO technique. The Punjab government’s exercise of setting up of over 200 RO plants in Bathinda, Mansa and surrounding districts has proved futile. Experts claim that the government has to go for other techniques to decontaminate potable water of uranium and other heavy metals.

Dr Rohit Mehra, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, Dr BR Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar, who examined hand pump water in 34 villages, found uranium in water was more alarming in Mansa district of Punjab compared to Faridkot.

The study found that the level of uranium, radium, thorium and potassium in soil samples was also higher. “The possible reasons for high level may be the extension of Tosham Hills under soils of Bathinda region, but for the final conclusion more analysis is required,” he said.

Dr Mehra claimed that the RO system was not suitable for the separation of uranium, radium, thorium and certain other heavy metals from the water. Instead of filtration, the RO plant could develop certain faults, he revealed.

The government should either go for some other technique for purifying the water for uranium and other heavy metals or only the canal water be used in RO plants. He, however, ruled out the possibility of high level of uranium in water drawn from deep bore wells.

On the presence of uranium in air, Dr Mehra claimed the mismanagement of fly ash in huge quantity in Bathinda might be another factor contaminating underground water as well as air. Mud houses, as loose soil contains uranium, and construction material having permissible quantity of fly ash, apart from marble and granite, should be avoided to get rid of the problem.

Chief Engineer (South), Water Supply and Sanitation Department, Punjab, SR Aggarwal, claimed that the government had taken up the setting up 98 RO plants in Bathinda district and 78 in Mansa district alone. Setting up of one RO plant costs from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh.

“The plants are being installed in identified villages, besides those on the tail end of the canals. The department has been planning to get waters tested afresh from known laboratories and research centres after the apprehensions of uranium level in potable waster in the region,” claimed Aggarwal.

Water Contamination
Kids in Punjab villages losing sight to polluted drinking water

Shankar Singh, 22, lost his eyesight
a decade ago. His younger brother,
Visakha Singh, who had no vision problem when he was born, too, lost
his sight as he grew up. [Read More...]

Pollution in Budda Nullah - 7 of family
fall prey to hepatitis

Gurminderjit Kaur of Gaunspur village
on the bank of Budda Nullah is only
28 years old and has lost all adult members of her family to hepatitis due
to the consumption of contaminated water [Read More...]

Parts of Malwa and Rajasthan drinking poison?

In the wake of discovery of high level
of uranium and other heavy metals in hair samples of 80% of 149
neurologically -disabled children, samples of five children from
worst-affected village of Teja Rohela, [Read More...]

Punjab Cancer
Cancer belt of Punjab

The number of cancer patients has
grown manifold in the recent years in the Malwa area. Local people feel excessive use of pesticides has contaminated the ground water.[Read More...]

Cancer picture dismal, not complete

The Day & Night channel’s well- documented report Cancer da Keher managed to capture the big picture. Swaran Singh Danewalia met the affected families in the Malwa region [Read More...]

HC notice to state on cancer in Malwa

Refusing to close its eyes to the ailing cancer cure facilities in Punjab’s Malwa belt, the Punjab and Haryana High
Court has taken suo motu cognizance [Read More...]

Cancer Train
‘Cancer train’ remains as popular as ever

Yet another year has passed but the
number of patients boarding from here
the infamous “cancer train” to Bikaner in
Rajasthan for the treatment of the
disease has increased,[Read More...]

Cancer Express

Passenger Express 339 enters Bathinda railway station around 9 pm, as if blindfolded by the dark winter night. The sight of it brings a glint to the lifeless
eyes of Balwinder Singh (42) waiting [Read More...]

Green revolution’s cancer train

Pesticides and cancer: a murderous
concoction, a massive environmental
and health disaster, while people are
dying in village after village of Punjab
[Read More...]

Uranium poisoning in Punjab
India's generation of children crippled by uranium waste

Their heads are too large or too small,
their limbs too short or too bent. For
some, their brains never grew, speech
never came and their lives are likely to
be cut short [Read More...]

Dr. Carin Smit's open letter to Journal of Medical Physics India

In 2008 I visited north India on request
to offer my services as a volunteer in a
project where there are more than 400
severely disabled children. The majority
suffered from [Read More...]

Punjab disability & Uranium Link – BBC

Tests on children with cerebral palsy or
mental disabilities in the Indian state of
Punjab have revealed high levels of
uranium. [Read More...]

Environmental Toxicity
Punjab: Sindh valley civilization again ready to die

The whole community is put on slow
death. The only difference between the
both situations is this that in those
times it was a natural disaster but this
time it is of man made [Read More...]

Punjab: An Environmental toxicity hotspot heading towards death

Punjab’s Ecosystem is full of Poisons.
It is increasingly becoming obvious that
Punjab is turning into a hotspot of
Environmental Toxicity. [Read More...]

Water Crisis and Water Chaos in Punjab

Women are bound to fetch water on
their head from as far as 3 kms, and a vast majority of people have no option other than to drink sub-human water [Read More...]

Reverse Osmosis (RO) filtration plants
RO plants bring hope in cancer belt

Despite slow pace of installation,
residents feel it will help them combat
the scourge Installation of Reverse
Osmosis (ROs) filtration plants is
progressing at a slow pace to provide
potable water [Read More...]

RO water too costly for Punjab’s poor
in Malwa

In the Malwa belt of Punjab that is
riddled with water problems, the Punjab
government’s project to install water
purifiers working on RO theory does not
seem to have yielded desired results,
at least for the poor.[Read More...]

Uranium in Water, 200 reverse osmosis plants of little use

Detection of high level of uranium in
water in the Malwa belt of Punjab have
virtually halted the installation of reverse
osmosis (RO) plants[Read More...]