Agra – home to the Taj Mahal plus other Mughal-era monuments – is a magnet for tourists, both domestic as well as foreign.
And besides lugging their cameras, tote bags and ruck sacks tourists carry the ubiquitous water bottles. For among Agra’s darkest secrets is the city’s undrinkable water.
Recently the Agra administration got the water in Agra tested and it was found that in most of the Agra district, the fluoride levels in the water are way higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) standards.
A senior water works official told India Today that in five districts of Uttar Pradesh, the subsoil water has been found to have higher than normal fluoride levels.
The Central government has issued an alert, asking the UP government to take immediate action to resolve this situation.
He said that the affected UP districts include Agra, Ghazipur, Jhansi, Sonbhadra and Varanasi. Earlier Unnao, Raibareli, Firozabad, Mathura and Pratapgarh had also been counted in the fluoride-affected districts.
Since 2009 the National Fluorosis Prevention and Control Programme has been running in UP with the state government operating water-testing laboratories in the initially identified fluoride affected districts.
There has been a growing chorus for more funds to establish labs and buy equipment and reagents; there’s also the need for more manpower.
According to the health department sources, when the fluoride content of water rises above 1-1.5 parts per million (ppm), it starts creating health related issues — fluorosis — in the people drinking this water. This limit has been fixed by the WHO.
Fluorosis damages teeth and bones, according to Dr SK Kalra, a senior physician. He said that the early signs of the disease are vomiting, loss of appetite, flatulence, bloating, yellowing teeth, frequent urination, excessive thirst, joint pain, hunched back and crooked legs among others.
Dr Sushma Singh, deputy director of State Institute of Health and Family Welfare said that the central government has notified five districts that are affected by fluorosis and water-testing labs are being established there, for which budget has been requested under the National Health Mission.