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Groundwater quality in Punjab 'unsafe', may up health risks: IIT Mandi

IANS | October 10, 2023 03:26 PM

SHIMLA: Human activity has increased groundwater pollution, particularly through agricultural runoff in Punjab, making it unsafe for drinking and raising health risk, according to a new research released by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi on Tuesday.

In a paper published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research, the researchers showed that in the last two decades, the groundwater demand has increased due to the absence of monsoon.

The groundwater department and local farmers have to exploit groundwater from deeper geological strata which are enriched in heavy metals and few are radioactive, having serious health impacts.

“We aimed to assess how groundwater quality for drinking purposes changed from 2000 to 2020 at different places. It also sought to examine ten-year trends in health hazards associated with contaminants like nitrate and fluoride, along with identifying regions with notably subpar groundwater quality, ” said Dr. D.P. Shukla, Associate Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, IIT Mandi, in a statement.

The study involved the measurements of pH, electric conductivity (EC), and various ions from over 315 sites in Punjab.

The results revealed a disturbing trend, with water quality declining in the southwestern region of Punjab, adversely affecting the health of the residents. In contrast, the north-eastern regions, nourished by Himalayan rivers, exhibited comparatively better water quality.

The prolific agricultural activity has come at a significant cost -- groundwater pollution. Since 94 per cent of the population of Punjab relies on groundwater for their drinking water needs, the pollution of groundwater has resulted in serious health issues.

Punjab, once celebrated as the “bread bowl of India”, is now infamously referred to as the "cancer capital" of India, reflecting the dire consequences of water pollution and its impact on human health, the researchers said.

The study not only sheds light on the alarming state of groundwater pollution in Punjab but also serves as a crucial resource for policymakers. It underscores the urgent need for mitigation measures and creates awareness among residents about the locations with unsafe groundwater for drinking.

The findings emphasise that immediate attention of the state government is required to investigate the quality of groundwater for drinking and irrigation purposes, the researchers said.

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