In an affidavit to the Supreme Court of India, the Health ministry said, "Under the rural drinking water supply, the survey conducted indicated that there are 216,968 rural habitations affected by poor water quality — fluoride affected 31,306 villages, salinity affected 23,495, iron affected 118,088, arsenic affected 5,029, nitrate affected 13,958 and multiple factors affected 25,092."
Over 31,000 villages are affected by excess amount of fluoride in drinking water. This causes a dreaded and incurable disease fluorosis in human beings and animals which leads to mottled teeth, stiffened brittle bones and joints, metabolic disorders and even paralysis in advanced stage.
Majority of these villages fall in Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
However, the government promised the Court that it was doing whatever it could to tackle the "water quality problem."
Upto 20% funds of the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARSWP) is earmarked for the purpose, affidavit said.
The government also said that under 'Bharat Nirman' scheme, a plan was afoot to build rural infrastructure in four years' time. "Rural drinking water is one of the components of the said plan and under this, it is envisaged to address the problem of quality of water," it added.
The dreaded arsenic poisoning of drinking water sources is acute in West Bengal and also prevalent in UP, Madhya Pradesh and Assam, where surveys have identified people suffering from arsenic lesions.
Excess use of fertilizers has polluted ground water sources with nitrate in Madhya Pradesh, UP, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.