Children of at least 90 schools in Moga district continue to drink underground water drawn by hand pumps, putting their health at risk since such water is contaminated with heavy metals such as uranium and toxic trace elements like fluoride.
Drinking water samples from many government and private schools in this district have turned out to be contaminated for the second time in recent times.
Nothing has changed on ground even as the health department forwarded information in this regard to education authorities, who in turn have written to these schools.
Sometimes ago, the health department had collected 132 samples of water from government and private schools of Moga and found 50 of them to be unfit for human consumption. It then proposed to install reverse osmosis (RO) filters. Another 132 samples were taken later on, out of which water at 40 more schools was found to be unfit.
Last year, 150 of the 361 samples drawn from various water sources, including 132 schools, contained fluoride and other heavy metals. Seven of 26 samples from private schools also failed the test. In 2010, 122 of the 397 total samples had failed the test.
The health department advisory to schools is for minimum intake of fluoride-contaminated water, but school authorities have no other alternative.
Tired after hockey practice, Daljit Singh of Class 7 walked to the hand pump installed at the government school of Lopo to quench thirst. Many students drink water from the same source. "My parents told me the water is contaminated. But there is no other arrangement," he remarked.
Fluoride poisoning is the main cause of diseases of the bones, joints and teeth; and early graying of hair. Groundwater in Punjab's villages is known to have high fluoride content.
"The health department has issued notice to the schools to not let children drink water from contaminated sources," said civil surgeon Dr Gulshan Rai. "Fluoride is dangerous for children. We will discuss the matter with the civil administration and education department."
Deputy commissioner Arshdeep Singh Thind agreed that it was a sensitive matter. "I will seek a report from the public health department and district education officer (elementary) about the sources of drinking water in government and private schools of Moga," he said. "The government schools will comply, and the private schools ignoring our directions will face tough action."