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An India-UK Water Centre workshop on Water Quality – Source Protection, focussing on Arsenic and Fluoride in groundwater together with the management of industrial pollution was held in Kolkata, West Bengal, India on 12th to 15th December 2018.
IUKWC Grassroots Field Exposure Sessions
The GFES initiatives aim to support the collaboration between users and researchers in the earlier stages of water science and promote the assimilation of local knowledge and users experiences into research design to develop ideas for future India-UK water research. GFES take the form of multi-day events designed to expose scientists to issues faced by water stakeholders at the ground level (for example, local municipal authorities, small and medium-sized enterprises, farmer associations) so as to understand the actual utility of scientific and policy outputs.
Water Quality issues in West Bengal
Out of the 27 river basins of the state, few, namely River Ratnakar (Kana Nodi), Behula, Saraswati, Banka Nodi among others are already running dry due to intense human interventions on natural flow and many rivers have lost their carrying capacity. Further, unplanned housing and industrial development, siltation and sedimentation, encroachment of river beds, dumping of garbage and artificial blockage by dams has severely affected the water quality both at surface and ground water level. Kanti (2014) reports that 868 liters of waste water is poured everyday into the river Ganga, 25% of which are effluents contributed by municipal sewage alongside the river in Bengal. The industrial hub located in catchment basins of Damodar and Subarnarekha rivers release chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides, toxic materials polluting the river water and posing a serious threat to the aquifer and river biodiversity. Arsenic and Iron contamination in groundwater pose serious threats to districts of southern Bengal while Fluoride contamination is a major problem in the western part of the state.
Given the above the current GFES aims to address the following issues:
- Change in water supply demand balance across West Bengal: Identifying the influencing factors (for example, climate change, farming, urban creep, industrial change and economic growth)
- Change in water quality: contributing factors that influence raw water quality deterioration with respect to Fluoride, Arsenic and other industrial pollution
- Existing contamination load within raw water and its impact on water quality, water security, public health and the environment/ecosystem
- Catchment activities influencing the raw water quality and security; impact on water security, quality and ultimately the protection of public health and the environment
- Identify research initiatives in place in West Bengal: knowledge gaps in terms of understanding the water quality and the source of contaminants/ influence water management policy at a local level and catchment scale in West Bengal
- Coverage of wastewater treatment programs: Scope for improvements in wastewater treatment at a local and regional level; management practices in place to address diffuse pollution issues: Identifying modelling needs and scale
- Consequences for future anthropogenic activity and ecosystem services in West Bengal