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12th June 2024 (12 Topics)

IISc develop method to cleanse groundwater contamination


In a breakthrough effort to tackle the pressing issue of arsenic contamination in groundwater, researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have devised a pioneering three-step process. This method not only effectively removes heavy metal pollutants like arsenic but also ensures their safe disposal, preventing them from re-entering the environment.


  • Scientists have developed a patent-pending technique aimed at addressing the critical aspect of sustainable waste management in water purification.
  • The three-step method effectively eliminates heavy metal contaminants like arsenic from groundwater, ensuring the production of safe drinking water.
  • The innovative process not only eliminates arsenic efficiently but also ensures environmentally friendly disposal of the removed pollutants.
  • The Problem: Arsenic and fluoride contamination in groundwater is a significant concern across India, with numerous districts exceeding permissible limits set by regulatory bodies like the Bureau of Indian Standards and the World Health Organization.
    • These contaminants pose severe health risks to both humans and animals.
    • Traditional methods of water purification often neglect the crucial step of disposing of removed contaminants safely, leading to potential recontamination.

Factors contributing to contamination:

  • Naturally Occurring Contaminants: Fluoride, arsenic, nitrate, iron, and heavy metals naturally exist in certain geological formations, affecting water quality.
  • Industrial Activities: Untreated or poorly treated industrial effluents discharged into water bodies contaminate surface and groundwater sources.
  • Agricultural Activities: Excessive use of pesticides, fertilizers, and agrochemicals in agriculture leads to water contamination over time.
  • Sanitation Practices: Inadequate sanitation facilities and open defecation, especially in rural areas, contribute to water source contamination.
  • Geogenic Processes: Geogenic processes, such as those causing uranium contamination, can occur naturally, exacerbated by groundwater overexploitation.
  • Improper Waste Disposal: Improper disposal of biowaste contaminates groundwater and surface water, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases.

Impact of Groundwater Contamination

  • Public Health Risks: Consumption of contaminated groundwater can lead to various health issues, including gastrointestinal disorders, neurological problems, skeletal deformities, and even cancer.
  • Common Contaminants and Health Impacts:
    • Arsenic: Chronic exposure can lead to black foot disease and poses significant health risks.
    • Fluoride: High fluoride intake causes neuromuscular disorders, dental deformities, and skeletal fluorosis.
    • Nitrates: Excessive nitrate levels in water can result in methemoglobinemia and blue baby syndrome.
    • Uranium: Elevated uranium levels in drinking water can cause kidney toxicity.
    • Radon: Presence of radioactive radon in groundwater poses risks of lung cancer.
  • Economic Burden: Treating water-related illnesses imposes significant healthcare costs on individuals and communities. Productivity losses due to sickness also impact economic development.
  • Environmental Degradation: Contaminated groundwater affects ecosystems, harming aquatic life and disrupting biodiversity. It can also degrade soil quality and impair agricultural productivity.
  • Social Inequities: Communities reliant on contaminated groundwater often face socio-economic challenges, including limited access to safe drinking water, reduced educational opportunities, and compromised livelihoods.
  • Long-Term Consequences: Groundwater contamination can persist for decades or even centuries, posing ongoing risks to human health and the environment. Remediation efforts may require substantial time, resources, and technological interventions.
Fact Box:

Water Governance

  • Water being a State subject, initiatives on water management, including its quality is primarily States’s responsibility.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), along with State Pollution Control Boards/Pollution Control Committees (SPCBs/PCCs), enforces laws like the Water (Prevention & Control) Act, 1974, and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to manage water pollution.

Government Initiatives related to water management and conservation:

  • Atal Bhujal Yojana
  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan
  • Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme (NAQUIM)
  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024

Prelims Question

Q. Which of the following can be found as pollutants in the drinking water in some parts of India? (2013)

  1. Arsenic
  2. Sorbitol
  3. Fluoride
  4. Formaldehyde
  5. Uranium

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 2, 4 and 5 only 
  3. 1, 3 and 5 only 
  4. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Solution: (c)

Mains Question

Q: The effective management of land and water resources will drastically reduce the human miseries. Explain. [2016]

Verifying, please be patient.

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