Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jan 2:
The Odisha government has decided to launch a mega drinking water project for Nuapada and Kalahandi, the two districts most affected by fluoride contamination. The proposed project, targeted to be completed in two years, would cost of Rs 750 crore, official sources said.
The state government approved the mega project proposal mooted by the Rural Development department after realizing that it would take at least 15-20 years for completion of minor drinking water projects aimed at providing clean, fluoride-free drinking to nearly 1000 villages spread over 16 districts.
The government also took note of the frequent strictures of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the failure of the government in providing fluoride-free drinking water to the people of the affected villages.
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has agreed in principle to provide financial assistance for this mega project under its Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) scheme, official sources said. A high-level team of NABARD officials will have a meeting with the state government in this regard on January 8, they added.
Rural Development secretary Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra told the media in the first phase of the project, filters would be installed in tube wells in the affected districts in which the fluoride content in the water is found to be in excess. The installation of filters in these tube wells would be completed by March this year, he added.
As per specifications, water can be used for drinking if one litre of water contains 1.5 milligram of fluoride. If the fluoride content exceeds this limit, it would pose serious health hazards.
Taking this into consideration, people of 927 villages in the state are presently using drinking water having excess fluoride content.
Of these 927 affected villages, 118 are in Nuapada district while the remaining 739 villages are spread over 15 districts, official sources said.
People of 118 villages in Khariar, Boden and Sinapali blocks in Nuapada district are becoming victims of fluorosis due to excess fluoride content in the water.