Seated deep inside Karnataka’s Tumkur district, located just a mere three hours away from the state’s capital city of Bengaluru, lies Pavagada taluk. The water that the people living here drink on a daily basis is poisoning them.
Pavagada is plagued by one of India’s largest fluoride crises. A study conducted in 2002 showed that out of 24 villages in the taluk, nearly 90 per cent of them had residents afflicted with fluorosis.
Fluorosis is a chronic condition which occurs when there has been an excess intake of fluoride over a period of several years. Fluoride compounds build up in the tissues of the body and can result in severe skeletal deformities.
Several villages surrounding Pavagada naturally have excess fluorides in the water. An amount of up to 1 ppm of fluoride is considered acceptable in drinking water reservoirs and will not affect people, however, in Pavagada, the water has been noted to contain as much as 7 ppm of fluoride.
As a result, the residents of these villages who are dependent on these sources for drinking water have been severely affected by the fluoride crisis.
As a result of drinking water that contains such high levels of fluoride, many residents have developed permanent skeletal defects. While some residents were affected at an older age, several children were born with skeletal defects.
“There is a lot of fluoride content in the water here. Several of the villages here have high fluoride in the water. The fluoride content is at 7.5 (ppm) which is a lot more than it should be. Several reports have shown the nuisance of fluorosis, it’s in high levels here. Many people are unable to walk. Many women have had to have their uterus removed as a result of the excess fluoride,” local activist Venkatesh tells TNM.
While the government has arranged for many water treatment plants (WTPs) to be set up in the affected villages, several reports have shown that the plants are faulty and are not effective in filtering out the water.
The WTPs have been able to reduce the levels of fluoride in the drinking water to 2ppm, but the water is still harmful to those who are dependent on this water for drinking.
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