Environment

High Levels of Arsenic Found in Groundwater in Uttar Pradesh

Natural contamination of groundwater with arsenic poses a health threat in many regions where people rely on hand pumps or tube wells for drinking water.

New Delhi: A new study has found that as many as 2.34 crore people in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh are exposed to high levels of arsenic in groundwater.

A total of 40 districts in the state are exposed to high concentration of arsenic in groundwater. The worst affected are Balia, Barabankhi, Gorakhpur, Ghazipur, Gonda, Faizabad and Lakhimpur Kheri. Most of the affected districts are situated on the floodplains of the Ganga, Rapti and Ghaghara rivers. Ten other districts with moderate risk of arsenic contamination are Shahjahanpur, Unnao, Chandauli, Varanasi, Pratapgarh, Kushinagar, Mau, Balrampur, Deoria and Siddharthnagar.

About 78% of the state’s population lives in rural areas and depends on groundwater for irrigation, drinking, cooking and other domestic requirements. Risk of exposure to arsenic is much higher in rural areas than it is in cities because piped water supply is not available in most villages.

Arsenic concentration in groundwater in Uttar Pradesh. Source: Author provided

Arsenic concentration in groundwater in Uttar Pradesh. Source: Author provided

Researchers tested groundwater samples using arsenic testing kits, and subsequently confirmed the findings in laboratory tests. In all, they analysed 1,680 groundwater samples from different regions of the state. Using these inputs, they developed a map of arsenic-affected regions reflecting the risk due to arsenic contamination.

The contamination was evaluated on 20 parameters, including land cover, aquifer depth, chemical and biological structure of soil and drainage system.

Also read: Indo-Pak Study Reveals Extensive Arsenic Problem in Punjab Groundwater

“The risk map indicates the need for a widespread testing of wells in various regions of Uttar Pradesh. It could be helpful in reducing long-term exposure of people residing in highly populated clusters to arsenic. Within these identified regions, districts like Ballia, Varanasi, Ghazipur, Gorakhpur, Faizabad, and Deoria are evidently experiencing a public health crisis due to arsenic exposure,”  Chander Kumar Singh, who led the study at the TERI School of Advanced Studies, told India Science Wire.

Natural contamination of groundwater with arsenic poses a health threat in many regions where people rely on hand pumps or tube wells for drinking water. Arsenic exposure has cause skin lesions, skin cancer, bladder, lungs and cardiovascular diseases as well as reduced intellectual function in children.

Umashankar Mishra writes for India Science Wire and tweets at @usm_1984.