Locals drink arsenic contaminated water

Banke, November 4:

The locals at Agaiyya village are compelled to drink arsenic-contaminated water because of lack of alternatives. Construction works of a drinking water project to supply pure water from lake located 10 km north of Agaiyya had begun in fiscal year 2002/03 but has not yet completed.

This has forced the 51 households in Agaiyya a village 56 km east of Nepalgunj, the district headquarters of Banke, along the Mahendra Highway, to drink contaminated underground water by using hand pumps, said a local Tej Bahadur Oli.

Tests have shown that underground water pumped for consumption here is contaminated with arsenic and water from the pumps which are free from such contamination contains high level of sulphur and iron and becomes reddish in colour when kept in any utensil after some. We have no option but to drink it, Oli further added.

The Drinking Water and Sanitation Division Office, Nepalgunj had begun the construction of the drinking water supply system after it was revealed that underground water in the area was heavily contaminated with arsenic.

The total cost for the project is estimated at Rs 3.593 million and 19 per cent of the cost will be borne as voluntary labour service by the water users, it was informed. Division Chief of the office, Keshav Lal Shakya said that 85 per cent of the construction of project has completed and Rs 2.188 million has been spent for construction.

“I had assured locals here that they would get pure drinking water before Dashain, but the construction work of project has halted due to lack of fund, and we are hopeful construction will resume within next two months after receiving budget,” he added. Arsenic is a poisonous element and could cause different skin related ailments after prolonged use and arsenic contamination in drinking water has been a major problem along the terai causing hazards.