The dipping groundwater levels and deterioration in its quality in some Bihar districts over the past two years have become a cause of worry for the state authorities, according to the latest economic survey of the state.
An assessment of pre-monsoon groundwater levels across the state revealed that districts such as Aurangabad, Saran, Siwan, Gopalganj, West Champaran, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Khagaria, Saharsa, Supaul, Madhepura, Purnea, Kishanganj, Araria, Katihar have witnessed a decline in groundwater levels in the last two years.
When asked Bihar Public Health Engineering Department Minister Lalit Kumar Yadav told PTI, "The matter is being examined by the department. We are planning a fresh study to find out the reasons behind the deterioration in water quality and preventive steps that can be taken to check it.
"Measures to check the decline in groundwater levels will also be discussed with other concerned departments of the state government," he said.
According to the Bihar Economic Survey (2022-23), in some districts, the groundwater levels were at least 10 m below the ground in districts like Aurangabad, Nawada, Kaimur, and Jamui during the pre-monsoon period in 2021.
The pre-monsoon groundwater level in Aurangabad was 10.59 meter in 2020 but in 2021 it has dipped to 10.97 meter.
The case is similar to other districts like Saran (5.55 meter in 2020 to 5.83 meter in 2021), Siwan (4.66 meter in 2020 and 5.4 meter in 2021), Gopalganj (4.10 meter in 2020 and 5.35 meter in 2021), East Champaran (5.52 meter in 2020 and 6.12 meter in 2021), Supaul (3.39 meter in 2020 and 4.93 meter in 2021).
"The dipping groundwater levels in various districts in the state is a matter of concern, as it critically supports agricultural, industrial and domestic activities. Besides, affecting the state's economic growth, the declining groundwater levels have other implications like depletion in freshwater resources and creation of ecological imbalance," said the Bihar Economic Survey. Besides human activities, rainfall fluctuations due to climate change can also impact the recharge of groundwater, it said.
About the contamination of groundwater in the state, the report said it has increased in recent years despite its abundant water resources.
As of 2021, there are a total of 968 canals, 26 reservoirs, and a large number of state tube wells in Bihar. "The water quality of river Ganga and its tributaries in Bihar indicate the presence of higher value of bacteriological population (total and faecal coliform). This is mainly due to discharges of sewage/domestic wastewater from cities located on the banks of the Ganga and its tributaries," it said.
Out of 1,14,651 rural wards in Bihar, the groundwater quality of 30,207 rural wards spread over 29 districts was found to be affected, the report said.
The PHED of the state government has developed a quality monitoring protocol for testing water and sharing the test results with users to ensure that a surveillance system is in place, it added.
Asked gastroenterologist Manoj Kumar said the consumption of water which is not properly treated poses a serious threat to human health.
Contamination of drinking water causes many types of diseases like typhoid, diarrhoea, hepatitis, cholera, and other viral infections.
"Groundwater mostly gets contaminated with leakages in sewage lines or through septic tanks. It has a high level of total dissolved solids concentration which essentially needs to be reduced to make water potable. It might also contain other hazardous elements. For instance drinking water containing fluoride may lead to fluorosis," he said.
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