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Use lesser groundwater in farming in Bengal to prevent arsenic exposure: Study

Kolkata, May 28 (IANS) A recent study by a group of environmental scholars and researchers from two leading institutions from West Bengal and one from Australia has suggested lesser use of groundwater in farming to prevent arsenic exposure for farm products, especially in case of rice.

The study paper by scholars and researchers from the School of Environmental Studies, the National Institute of Biological Genomics and Australia’s University Of Newcastle pointed out that since groundwater is more prone to arsenic exposure, farm products produced by using that water also become prone to the same exposure.

To prevent this, the report has suggested stressing on rainy season farming so that rainwater can be used. This remedy is extremely important considering that West Bengal is among those states which have extremely high arsenic concentration in groundwater. Historically as many as 83 blocks scattered over seven districts in West Bengal have arsenic levels in groundwater higher than the permissible limits.

The report, published in science magazine “Environmental Science & Pollution Research”, suggests if rice is cooked using arsenic-free water equivalent to three times of the quantity of rice being cooked, the level of arsenic exposure in that cooked rice comes down substantially.

It has also suggested that since selenium acts as instruments for combating arsenic, selenium fertilisers should be extensively used while paddy farming.

The research on this count was conducted on paddy varieties collected from Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, and West Midnapore. The research has revealed that of these varieties collected, the danger of arsenic exposure is maximum and also alarming in North 24 Parganas. While that from Kolkata is prone to moderate exposure, the one from West Midnapore is relatively safe on this count.

In 2020, following a reach jointly conducted by the West Bengal Agriculture Department and National Botanical Research Institute of Lucknow, the state government announced the development “Muktoshri”, a variety of rice that is resistant to arsenic.