You may see our presentation at Annual Conference(2007) of Royal Society of Geographers,London through the following links:
Arsenic – The Slow Poison Threatening Bihar
Bihar is facing one of the gravest natural disasters in the form of arsenic contamination of ground water. In the first
detailed study of ground water quality, the Department of Environment and Water Management, A.N.College, Patna, has already
submitted Interim Reports to PHED and UNICEF about the alarming findings on arsenic poisoning cases in the districts of Patna,
Bhojpur, Vaishali and Bhagalpur. The study was conducted from April 2004 to May 2006, the study area being confined to 10
kms. wide belt along the Ganga river as per the instructions of PHED and UNICEF. A total of over 28000 drinking water hand
pumps have been tested. All the arsenic hotspots have been located on G.P.S.handsets. According to Dr.Ashok Ghosh, Principal
Investigator of Project Arsenic, Dept. Of EWM, A.N.College, these findings are just the tip of the iceberg, as more contaminated
aquifers are waiting to be detected in the remaining parts of the state. The water quality testing was done initially by Field
Test Kits and then confirmed by AAS or UV Spectrophotometric tests. Epidemiological studies indicate that drinking water having
more than permissible arsenic levels of 10 ppb. increases the mortality rates as arsenic is a bio-accumulative toxin. Persons
suffering from arsenicosis have not yet responded to known treatment procedures. The high the intake of arsenic, along with
under nourishment and lack of medical help have worsened the lives of the population in the arsenic affected rural areas.
Arsenic can also contaminate standing food crops if it is present in the soil and soil water. As Bihar Plains are highly fertile
and its crops are marketed to many distant places, apart from being locally consumed, it becomes imperative to test the levels
of arsenic in the food chain too. What is worrisome is that arsenic contaminated ground water tables have abrupt occurrences
both over time and space. This explains why a public hand pump in village Ramnager in Maner tested 30 ppb. in the post monsoon
period and more than 60 ppb. in the month of May. Also arsenic manifestation exists at different levels in different areas.
In north-west Maner, arsenic contaminated hand pumps have a shallow depth of between 60 to 80 feet in the diara belt. In Bhojpur,
the depth of contaminated aquifers goes down to 150 feet away from new diara land, while in Vaishali, arsenic is found in
the shallow and middle aquifers at an average distance of 5 km. away from the river bank. Regular monitoring of drinking water
from hand pumps is immediately required as a part of the mitigation strategy. Patna, the first district to be covered, revealed
pockets of high arsenic contamination, above the acceptable limit of 10 ppb., in 171 villages in Maner, Danapur, Sampatchak,
Barh, Bakhtiarpur, , Fatuha, Khusrupur, Phulwari, Mokama, Pandarak and Patna City. 1060 village hand pumps were arsenic contaminated
The highest AAS reading of arsenic level in government hand pump water is 724 ppb. in village Naikatola in Maner, 450 ppb.
in Kasimchak village in Danapur, 553 ppb. in Ghiaspur Mahazi and 538 ppb. in Kala Diara, Bakhtiarpur,, and 484 ppb. in Malahi
Banda village in Barh. Sampatchak Block has low contamination levels of below 50 ppb. over a larger area in most of the villages.
In Bhojpur, the highest AAS test readings are 1861 ppb. and 1064 ppb. in Pandey tola, Barhara Block, a situation far more
serious than the one represented by the much-touted village Ojhapatti of Shahpur Block. Out of the 6292 hand pumps tested,
47.70 % were arsenic contaminated hand pumps. In Barhara, 62.84%, in Udwantnagar 59.39%, in Shahpur 40.41%, in Behea 37.17%,
in Koilwar, 29.20%, and in Ara 25.88% of Block level hand pumps were arsenic contaminated. In Vaishali, all the Blocks covered
within 10 km. along the Ganga banks, has low level arsenic contamination at present. The peculiar trend here is that arsenic
contaminated hand pumps exist in a contiguous belt from Hajipur in the east to Sahdai-Buzurg in the west about 5 km. north
of the left bank of the river Ganga. This justifies the need for expanding the study area to the remaining area of Bihar state.
However, Raghopur Block is worst affected as all the hand pumps tested have contamination of different levels. The range of
arsenic contamination in this district is from 10 – 300 ppb. as per UV Spectrophotometer results. The population residing
in arsenic contaminated aquifer areas are 5,55,339 in Patna, 3,66,039 in Bhojpur and 4,79,138 in Vaishali. The visible symptoms
manifest as skin discoloration, Keratosis, Melanosis, digestive disorders, and other symptoms that are not responding to treatment
resorted to by the villagers. The worst scenario is present in Bhagalpur, where arsenic has seeped into even open wells. The
seriousness of the situation has made the P.I. submit his interim report on Nathnagar Block to PHED, Govt. of Bihar, while
detection work is in progress in Sabour Block. Dildarpur Bindtola [505 ppb], Shankerpur Chawania [433 ppb.], Shankerpur [526
ppb.], and Gosaidaspur [550 ppb.] are the worst affected villages in Nathnagar The Protocol for assessment of arsenic contamination
in ground water in Bihar was formulated by the Dept. of EWM, A.N.College, Patna. The efficacy of this Protocol led to its
acceptance and adoption by UP Jal Nigam in2005, as the standard for testing levels of ground water arsenic. It is noteworthy
that the Govt. of Bihar has acknowledged that arsenic problem in drinking water in Bihar exists, only after the findings of
the Project Arsenic were presented to it. Newer findings are continually being forwarded to the government authorities by
Dr. A.K.Ghosh for necessary action. The Dept. of EWM is continuing its research and dissemination of information on deterioration
of ground water quality, and has presented papers at national and international levels. This research group has also isolated
a couple of arsenic munching bacteria from the arsenic contaminated aquifers of Bihar,on which work is in progress.The interdisciplinary
Core Study Team comprises of Dr. Ashok Kumar Ghosh [P.I.], Prof. Shatrunjay Kumar Singh [Coordinator- Field work and Lab.
Analysis],Dr. Nupur Bose [Coordinator –Data Mapping and Socio-Economic assessmentDr.Sunil Choudhary, [Coordinator Bhagalpur
Sattelite Centre]. This team is aided by a dedicated group of Resource Persons- Dr. Ajay K. Upadhyay, Dr. N.P.Roy, Dr. Vinod
Shankar and Mr. Amardeep Singh. As acknowledgement of their pioneering work on arsenic contaminated aquifers in Bihar, the
Dept. of EWM has received offers for international collaboration from University of Manchester,UK, and Dept. of Environmental
Engineering, Griffith University, Australia.
Microbes Working as Biofertilizers
We have isolated more then hundred microbes from soil of Bihar under the DBT project [MBCN of Bihar].Three of them
have been identified as microbes with biofertilzer capabilities.These microbes have been tested individually and in different
contortia on Maize for their biofertilizer potential.Encouraging results have been recorded both on vegetative growth and
reproductive growth.The PI of the research project ,Dr.Ashok Ghosh plans to get these microbes patented soon.
Synthesis of Silver Nanoparticle by Bacteria
Recently my Research Group has identified Bacteria capable of synthesizing Silver Nanoparticle by Bacteria - Bacillus
cereus.The strain has been preserved at IMTECH,Chandigarh.Further studies are going on for characterization of the particles.The
news about the breakthrough was published on front page of Hindustan Times on 16th March,2008.The findings have been accepted
for oral presentation at International conference of Nano science to be held in Boston in the month of June,2008.
Shrinkage of wetlands of Bihar
Rapid shrinkage has been discovered in the wet lands of Bihar.remote sensing images have been compared at an interval
of 20years and it has been observed that the area of Kabar Lake, a proposed Ramsar Wetland has shrunk very rapidly in last
20 years.Change in land use has been also detected.Agricultural land of bihar shows marked decrease.