Cities like Delhi may get cleaner drinking water if the latest efforts of the Water Resources ministry get the Planning Commission’s nod. HT on Saturday has pointed at high levels of Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM) in Delhi water because of old processes in water purification units and chances of contamination due to old pipelines.
That may change as the ministry has proposed to give financial incentives to states to update age-old water purification technology with the best global practices in a bid to provide safe drinking water. Many agencies like the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and the Central Pollution Control Board have conducted studies highlighting contamination of the drinking water.
The proposal, promoting Central and State cooperation, is being discussed at sub-group level and is likely to be part of the approach paper, a commission official said. It speaks about improving water quality in wake of recent United Nations report on poor water and sanitation quality in India. The report has said that 30 per cent of Indian children in the age-group of 0-6 years die because of water borne diseases. The commission officials also say money for improving water quality is also being provided under different schemes of ministry of Urban Development, ministry of Environment and Forests, ministry of Health and ministry of Rural Development.
Water Resources minister Said-ud-din Soz also stressed on better water management at Water Digest Awards 2006 on Monday. “There are major contributors to water management and our efforts should be to bring them to the fore and set examples for others to follow,” he said, while pointing a need for better water quality delivery in India.
Though CPCB report had reported contamination of water at the homes, it gave a clean chit to the Delhi Jal Board. “Samples from seven DJB treatment plants were collected for 15 locations and TTHM was found to be within the permissible limits of US Environment Protect Agency (UPEPA) standards. But, the samples lifted by CPCB staff from their own homes in different parts of the city had high TTHM.
CPCB also said that chlorination is used as disinfection because of its effectiveness in controlling water borne diseases, its economics and easy availability. However, during treatment, the chlorine reacts with naturally occurring bio-genic organic matter, such as humic and fulvic acids resulting in formation of various disinfection byproducts and TTHMs, considered toxic and carcogenic.
Studies in US have shown that cancer is the most possible TTHM risk but its intensity is highly debated. A study in California found high miscarriage rate among women drinking five glasses of highly contaminated TTHM water but another study in North Carolina found toxicity of such water very less. Dr Anil Bansal of Delhi Medical Council, when the concentration of TTHM is more than .46milligram per litre it can cause colon-rectum and bladder cancer and can also cause miscarriage.
The easy solution, according to experts, is use of chloramines in place of chlorine. Several cities in US and Europe are using chloramines even though it is less disinfectant that chlorine. For India, chlorine is best option because of high contamination of the raw water.