Fluorosis Mitigation in Selected Villages of Sonbhadra District, U.P

Funding Agency: People for Progress in India, Seattle, USA

Fluorosis is a disease caused by fluoride concentrations above the permissible levels in the drinking water. In India about 20 states have been identified with the problem of excess fluoride in groundwater. Rural populations that are mainly dependent on groundwater for drinking purposes, are the worst affected. Since the late 1980s, government and non-government agencies have launched efforts to control the spread of Fluorosis. Despite these efforts, reports continue to appear indicating an increasing spread of Fluorosis. Continuous progress of industrialization and deforestation in a particular area also aid the emergence of more Fluorosis.

In particular, several industries like thermal power plants, coal based and metallurgical industries, located in Sonbhadra district are potential sources of fluorides in water and air. In Sonbhadra region about 20,500 MW electricity is being produced by groups of thermal power plants which burn 2.5-3 lakh tonne coal on daily basis. As a consequence, 30,000 kg fluorides are released to the environment daily. Many cases of dental and skeletal Fluorosis have been identified in many tribal villages neighbouring Banwasi Seva Ashram (BSA) and blocks populated with tribal communities.

This project is aimed at ensuring fluorosis mitigation in selected four villages and establishing a model for Fluorosis mitigation for Sonbhadra region where excess fluoride is present in air and water both. The initial stage of the project involves (a) identification of safe sources of all the drinking water sources in selected villages, carrying out water quality testing and start their conservation and (b) assessment of the current prevalence of Fluorosis. The relationships between the incidence of fluorosis and the concentration of fluoride in the drinking water in these villages is under investigation. A plan is being prepared to reduce the prevalence of fluorosis through providing safe drinking water and nutritional interventions. The proposed action plan is being implemented through involvement of village health sanitation and nutrition committee (VHNSC) of the local governing bodies (Gram Panchayat) for promoting local governance ownership. The proposed safe drinking water security plan include alternative supply strategy and providing de-fluoridation units. In addition, nutritional interventions- (calcium, vitamins, antioxidants etc.) as well as traditional home based remedy knowledge will be provided to help villagers deal with effects of fluorosis. For mitigation of fluorosis on the social front, community mobilization is being carried out by organizing village meetings and Sandash Yatra to spread the awareness against Fluorosis and appropriate strategies for fluoride mitigation. Data and information gathered through this project is expected to help villages and local voluntary organizations in developing sustainable programs on fluorosis mitigation.