FLUOROSIS, a disease caused by high intake of fluoride, is becoming endemic in Tharparkar with more than 250 of the 950 people in Samoon Rind village suffering from it. They have developed bone deformities and skeletal and dental fluorosis due to the consumption of groundwater with high levels of fluoride.
According to reports, severe drought-like conditions, decreasing water level in wells and increase in salt concentration are endangering the lives of the Thari people.
The people, in the absence of a public water supply, are compelled to use groundwater, which is high in fluoride. Fluoride causes dental and skeletal fluorosis, osteosclerosis, thyroid and kidney problems when its concentration exceeds 1.5 mg/l in drinking water, and the intake of excessive fluoride leads to chronic bone and joint deformations.
Healthcare is a major issue in Tharparkar. Fluorosis is irreversible and no remedy or treatment has so far been found except for prevention by keeping the fluoride intake within safe limits.
Both dental and skeletal fluorosis not only affects the body of a person but also render him socially and culturally crippled.
Research has disclosed that groundwater in the areas along the north and northeastern side of Tharparkar has affected the health of the people seriously.
For example, one or two members of each family are suffering from arthritis and a large number of elders and children are in serious need of corrective orthopedic surgery.
Ali Akbar, the executive director of a local NGO, Association for Water Applied Education and Renewable Energy (AWARE), says that the situation in the Thar region is alarming and requires the government to immediately take remedial measures, including better development of groundwater and installation of de-fluoridation and desalination plants.
Quality, quantity and access to water should be addressed with an integrated approach instead of installing advanced technology-based systems having high recurring costs and allocating a major portion of budget for wells in Tharparkar.
LAGHARI SHAH NAZ Mirpurkhas