Despite the presence of uranium in drinking water in certain areas of Punjab, funds given by the Union government to the state for ensuring potable water in rural areas were meagre: Less than 1% of the total national outlay.Out of a total allocation of Rs 10,500 crore for ensuring potable water in rural areas across the country during 2012-13, Punjab's share is a mere Rs 103 crore (0.98%).
Announcing the funds outlay for the states, Union minister for rural development and drinking water and sanitation, Jai Ram Ramesh, said on Thursday that the criteria for giving funds was quality of water available, desert areas, population and drought-prone areas in the state.
"Out of 2,462 water samples taken from different parts of the state, results of 1,642 had been received. Of these, 1,140 samples have tested uranium-positive," revealed the minister.
He also said that drinking water in Gurdaspur had tested positive for arsenic. The samples were tested as per WHO norms. There were 9,000 water sources in Punjab and water from every source would be tested, he assured.
Asked the reasons for allocation of lesser funds for Punjab, Ramesh said, "We (union government) are not discriminating against Punjab. Other states in the country which get more funds face drought, have large deserts areas and tougher conditions."
Interestingly, as compared to Punjab, other northern states have been allocated much higher funds for rural potable water programme. Jammu and Kashmir gets Rs 511 crore, Haryana Rs 250 crore and Uttrakhand Rs 160 crore. "Other states are facing a different set of problems," pointed out Jairam.
Immediately after interacting with media, the Union minister left for Mohali to lay foundation stone of a building for laboratory to test ground water in the state. Bhaba Atomic Research Center (BARC) and Panjab University would jointly run the laboratory The Rs 4-crore lab would test water for uranium, and heavy metals like arsenic, mercury and lead.
Water samples analysed at BARC for uranium from Mansa, Bathinda, Faridkot, Sangrur and Barnala districts and some parts of Ludhiana have tested positive.
The Punjab government has formed a high-level committee to look for ways and means to provide safe drinking water in areas where uranium, arsenic and other heavy metals were found.