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RO plants bring hope in cancer belt


Bathinda, May 28
Installation of Reverse Osmosis (ROs) filtration plants is progressing at a slow pace to provide potable water in the rural households of the Malwa belt that has over the years come to be known as the cancer capital of Punjab.

Residents of these villages have been consuming highly contaminated canal water with which they refuse to irrigate their crops. The government's scheme to install ROs has come as a ray of hope for them.

Of the 754 villages in the districts of Bathinda, Muktsar and Mansa, only about 280 have so far been provided with community-based ROs. Residents of the Jhajjal and Gyana villages in the Talwandi Sabo block of Bathinda that have remained in news because of a very high incidence of cancer are satisfied following the installation of RO units. However, the unit in Gyana has reportedly not been functioning smoothly.

A total number of 88 ROs have been installed in the Bathinda district, 78 in Mansa and about 130 in Muktsar where safe drinking water is sold for 10 paise per liter.

According to an engineer of the Public Health department in Bathinda, 13 ROs were at an advanced stage of installation in the district and the government has approved another 13.

The Gidderbaha area of Muktsar district that also had a high number of cancer patients has now got RO units. Residents of several villages were compelled to drink water containing high quantity of calcium, magnesium, potassium, chloride and sulphates. These minerals cause various water-borne disease, including cancer.

Residents of villages that have not yet been provided RO units fetch filtered water from the neighbouring areas and were demanding such filtration plant in their own hamlets. However, menfolk of the Teona Pujarian village in the Talwandi Sabo block were shy of carrying the plastic cans to fetch water from the RO in the neighbouring village of Sangat Khurd, said a resident Jagsir Singh.

Rural folk in certain areas have offered to pay additional price for RO water in case the operators made arrangements for home delivery. The arrangement was already in vogue in Bathinda town where cab and rickshaw operators are seen delivering RO water at the doorsteps of hotels, clubs, commercial establishments and domestic customers at a nominal additional payment. An engineer said, reports have been received from certain areas where not more than 35 per cent of the village folk fetch water from the RO. Others were pressing for introduction of home delivery system.

Top priority was being given to the installation of ROs in the Bathinda town with 50 municipal corporation wards where 37 have already been commissioned, said senior deputy mayor Tarsem Goyal. The left out wards would also be provided RO filters in the first round. The bigger wards would be provided additional ROs in the second round, he added.

Of the 281 villages of Bathinda, 279 have been identified as water scarcity villages where the residents depend on canal and groundwater.

In most of the southern areas of Punjab, underground water is unfit for human consumption as it contains total dissolved solids (TDS) in the range of 15000-35000 mg per litre. Whereas, according to BIS standards, safe drinking water should have TDS in the range of 0-500 mg per litre.

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