Contamination of drinking water sources continue to haunt people of Sangrur and Barnala districts as well as the state government after 35% of water samples were found contaminated with uranium, while 30% samples showed presence of heavy metals, posing a serious threat to life of humans. As per a report of the Punjab Bio-Technology Incubator (PBTI), Sangrur district topped the chart in the state when it came to presence of heavy metals in water. In the district, 28 samples were found positive of the total 90 samples taken.
In Barnala district, out of 30 samples of drinking water collected from different places, 11 tested positive for heavy metals. The content of heavy metals was beyond the permissible limit.
The situation has been cited as grim in Hoshiarpur district, where around 50% of samples have failed due to high heavy metal content. Forty-two samples were found positive out of 53 water samples in the district.
Not even a single water sample was found positive in Amritsar, Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Kapurthala and Jalandhar districts for heavy metals.
Of the total 976 samples collected from across the state, 188 were found positive, putting a big question mark on the tall claims of the state government of providing safe drinking water to people.
Regarding high uranium content, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in its report stated 66% of samples failed in Barnala district, the highest in the state, owing to presence of uranium beyond the permissible limit of 60 parts per billion (ppb) fixed by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
Fourteen of the 140 samples failed test and were tested positive for uranium content beyond permissible limit in Sangrur district.
BARC had collected around 1,686 samples, of which 261 were found positive for uranium contamination. In Moga district, 77 water samples out of 232 were found unsafe for drinking.
Sangrur MP Vijayinder Singla had tabled the report in Parliament recently.
The water samples were taken mainly from rural areas of the state. Besides remaining cause of cancer among humans, especially in the Malwa belt, the contaminated water also pose hazard to animal health. The problems of mortality, dwindling milk yield and weakness in calves owing to contaminated water have been reported from among cattle.
District health officer DR Surinder Singla said though high incidence of uranium and heavy metals is harmful and could lead to diseases like cancer, the contamination can be checked up to the limit of 100ppb with the reverse osmosis system. "In case of heavy metals, it is necessary to know what type of metals were found and in what quantity. Moreover, it had become very difficult to deal with high content of uranium in water," he said.
Member of Parliament from Sangrur, Vijayinder Singh Singla said it was a sorry state of affairs that the government failed to provide safe drinking water to humans and animals. "In view of the seriousness of the problem, the Centre will install RO systems in 47 villages where problem was grim under its National Rural Drinking Water programme. Moreover, request will be made to government to install more RO systems in both districts to provide safe drinking water to people," he said.