By Alee khan
According to the recently released Central Ground Water Board report, the groundwater in 249 districts of 18 states of the country is saline, while in 370 districts of 23 states, fluoride was found to exceed the normal standard. Arsenic is reported in 154 districts in 21 states. Similarly, cadmium was found in groundwater in 24 districts, lead in 94 districts, iron in 341 districts and nitrate in ground water in 423 districts of 23 states. High nitrate content has been found in groundwater in 59 districts of the agricultural state of Uttar Pradesh, 19 of Punjab, 21 districts of Haryana and 51 districts of Madhya Pradesh. This problem is arising in these districts due to indiscriminate use of fertilizers and unscientific techniques of irrigation. The increasing amount of nitrates in the water is increasing the digestion process and shortness of breath. In response to a question asked in Parliament, the Ministry of Jal Shakti gave details of groundwater pollution on the basis of the report of the Central Ground Water Commission. According to this, due to the dissolution of deadly chemicals in the ground water of more than 400 districts of the country, there has been a serious crisis of clean and pure drinking water. In many districts, where already fluoride, arsenic, iron and heavy metal was more than the prescribed standard, the content of nitrate and iron is increasing in most of the districts. Anthropogenic encroachment has been attributed to the increase in nitrates in groundwater. It is noteworthy that nitrate is increasing more in the groundwater of those states where indiscriminate use of fertilizers is being done in intensive farming. The quality of drinking water is being affected due to heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals dissolving in the water. If the polluted ground water is not stopped in time, then there will be a drinking water crisis.
Man knows very well that without water there is no existence of life. It has also been said that if there is water, there is tomorrow. Despite this, human beings are doing the work of contaminating the water through their activities. As human beings are exploiting natural resources on a large scale with their materialistic lifestyle. It is known that natural resources are limited, it is natural to create a crisis due to its unlimited use. Human beings have done terrible destruction of the kingdom of nature to fulfill their needs. As a result, despite having water on almost three-fourths of the earth, the latest UNO report shows that half of the world’s population is not getting safe drinking water. In India, the situation is even more dire. The increase in nitrate content in groundwater under such dire circumstances is worrying.
However, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha, the Ministry said that according to a notification dated 24 September 2020, several strict provisions have been made for the quality of groundwater nationwide. These include setting up sewage treatment plants and shutting down all sources of sewage into reservoirs and rivers. Under this notification, the Central and State Governments are jointly operating the Jal Jeevan Mission. So that people can be supplied clean and pure drinking water from tap to their homes. Significantly, this mission was started in August 2019. Under this, water supply is to be ensured to all rural households of the country by the year 2024.
If we do not take care in time, then polluted water will work to spoil our health infrastructure. According to the report of the health organization, water is the cause of about 80 percent of diseases. Similarly, according to Ayurveda, water is a sedative of many diseases. Human factors like increasing population, urbanization and industrialization have polluted our environment. Today the increasing use of chemical fertilizers and insecticides has polluted all the sources of water like ponds, wells, rivers and even the ocean. Groundwater, which is a major source of water supply in the country. The presence of nitrates in it is worrying. The havoc of nitrates in the ground water of many states is making the water poisonous. Therefore, there is a great need for proper efforts and public awareness in this direction.
For information, let us tell you that there are many such compounds formed by the combination of nitrate, nitrogen and oxygen, which are found in many food items especially vegetables, meat and fish for human consumption. In fact, nitrates are the end products of air fixation of organic nitrogen. It has been observed that due to excessive water solubility of nitrate and low holding capacity of soil particles, water flowing from fields due to excessive irrigation or excessive rainfall carries nitrate along with it to wells, drains and canals. Thus, the drinking water of humans and animals gets polluted by nitrates. The population of our country has crossed one billion. Therefore, maximum use of chemical fertilizers is being done for the production of excessive food grains to feed such a population. The consumption of nitrogenous fertilizers in the country has also increased greatly over the years. Scientists in many places of the country have considered nitrogen fertilizers as the effective factor of increasing nitrate concentration in groundwater. It has also been observed that in rural areas, only nitrogen fertilizers are used instead of balanced fertilizers, due to which such a situation has arisen.
I would like to tell that the high concentration of nitrate in drinking water affects human, cattle, aquatic life and industrial sector also. Water plays its role in both curative and curative form. In fact, nitrate itself does not cause any adverse effect on health, but its reduction to nitrite certainly makes even a small amount of it fatal. When nitrate enters the body through water or food, it is converted into nitrite by bacteria in the mouth and intestines, which is a strong oxidising agent. It converts the ferrous form of iron available in the hemoglobin present in the blood to ferric. Thus, hemoglobin is converted into methemoglobin, due to which hemoglobin loses its ability to transport oxygen. In severe cases, internal respiratory obstruction can occur, the symptoms of which can be recognized by the greenish-blue color of the skin and mucous membranes. It is also called blue baby or cyanosis. This conversion is twice as fast in young children as they are more susceptible to methemoglobinemia. Milk also gets nitrate poisoning from the drinking of high nitrate-rich water by mothers of young children who are breast-feeding. Russian scientists (Petukov and Ivanov) have also observed the effects of nitrate poisoning on the central nervous system. They observed these effects in Russian children only at nitrate concentrations of 105 to 182 mg per liter. Similarly, adverse effects on the heart vascular system have also been observed due to high nitrate concentration in drinking water. As it has been mentioned that when nitrate reaches our body through food or water, it gets converted into nitrite. This nitrite again reacts with secondary amines, amides and carbamates to form N-nitroso compounds which are highly carcinogenic. Research results have shown that there is a close relationship between high nitrate-rich water and gastric cancer. Ecological studies also show that high amounts of nitrates in food or water are helpful in causing cancer. In such a situation, it can be said that increasing amount of nitrate in water invites various types of diseases.
The increasing amount of nitrate in water also adversely affects the health of cattle. A study has shown that nitrate poisoning has been observed in milch cattle like cow, buffalo, goat etc. Oats, millets, maize, wheat, barley, sudan grass and rye grass are the plants in which nitrate content is high. If the fodder is grown in such land in which organic and nitrogen content is high and nitrogen fertilizers have been used in excess or fertilizers like urea have been sprayed around in a hurry, then in such a situation nitrate poisoning becomes more in these fodder. Nitrate poisoning produces gastric intestinal perforation in animals. Sudden death due to this has also been observed in animals grazing in pastures. There is a sudden outbreak of the disease with symptoms such as severe pain, drooling, sometimes flatulence and polyuria. Rapid breathing and shortness of breath, rapid pulse, staggering and lowering of temperature are also other symptoms of this disease. Scientists at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute Izzatnagar (Bareilly) have observed severe nitrate poisoning in calves and chronic nitrate poisoning in goats by eating Para grass. Highly nitrate rich water in dry areas of the country, When thirsty animals drink more water together during summer, nitrate poisoning develops in them which sometimes leads to their death. Lack of milk and abortion have also been observed in many milch animals by drinking water containing nitrates. Thus, the presence of nitrates in water affects the health of human as well as cattle to a great extent.
Now the question is how to reduce the presence of increasing nitrate in water? Why are governments not taking a serious look at the presence of nitrates in water? It is worth mentioning that water has been made a state subject. Therefore, the governments of the states are working to be more lax towards the increasing pollutants in the water. At the same time, the attitude of the central government has always been indifferent. In such a situation, there is a need to make water a subject of the Concurrent List. Bringing the subject of water in the Concurrent List will help in developing a comprehensive action plan. Better conservation, development and management of water, including groundwater, will be possible through consensus between the Center and the States. Further, in view of the havoc of nitrate in water, its excessive concentration should be reduced. Due to the high solubility of nitrate in water, its removal from water is a difficult task. Nitrate pollution has become a major problem in agricultural countries, whose elimination is absolutely necessary. Based on the survey conducted at present, the concentration of nitrate in ground water of 16 states of our country is more than 45 mg per liter. Among these, the value of total soluble solids in groundwater of many states is also high. There is a need to adopt alternative methods to obtain nitrate free water in drinking water supply. In such areas where the nitrate level in water is low, efforts should be made to supply water by digging tube wells, widening flat wells or getting water from more depth. Simultaneously, the Ministry of Water Resources, in collaboration with the Central Pollution Control Board, should develop an effective mechanism to identify critically polluted areas located in dark blocks. Steps should be taken to reduce and control dumping of industrial waste into surface water and underground aquifers. Also, a system should be put in place for regular monitoring of industries to which No Objection Certificates (NOCs) have been issued by the Central Ground Water Authority. This will ensure that the conditions mentioned in the NOC are being followed. All State Pollution Control Boards should put in place suitable and effective monitoring mechanisms. Today the conservation of water should be our special issue or concern, so that this problem can be prevented from taking a formidable form.
(Author is Jaisalmer based freelance writer, columnist and commentator. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at Aleekhanbhaiya@gmail.com)