Researchers have developed and commercialised a rice variety that is resistant to arsenic. The new rice variety, Muktoshri, also called IET 21845, was developed jointly by the Rice Research Station at Chinsurah coming under West Bengal’s Agriculture Department and the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, over several years. Work on developing the variety started in 2006 and by 2013 the scientists were successful. This variety uptake very less amount of arsenic from soil and water in comparison to other varieties of rice. The variety yields 5.5 metric tonnes per hectare in the Boro season and 4.5 to 5 metric tonnes per hectare in the Kharif season, respectively.
Arsenic is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater of a number of countries. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form. Arsenic contamination of groundwater is widespread and there are a number of regions where arsenic contamination of drinking-water is significant.
Arsenic is one of WHO’s 10 chemicals of major public health concern.
It is now recognized that at least 140 million people in 50 countries have been drinking water containing arsenic at levels above the WHO provisional guideline value of 10 μg/L (4).
According to the latest report of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), 21 states across the country have pockets with arsenic levels higher than the Bureau of Indian Standards’ (BIS) stipulated permissible limit of 01 milligram per litre (mg/l).
In India, arsenic contamination was first officially confirmed in West Bengal in 1983. Close to four decades after its detection, the scenario has worsened, about 9.6 million people in West Bengal are at immediate risk from arsenic contamination in groundwater.
West Bengal is among the States with the highest concentration of arsenic in groundwater, with as many as 83 blocks across seven districts having higher arsenic levels than permissible limits.
Irreversible damages: Major impacts of arsenic in water include skin damage, keratosisand skin cancer, cancers of lung and bladder and diseases of the vascular system.
Poisoning: According to the World Health Organization, long-term exposure to arsenic, mainly through drinking water and food, can lead to poisoning.
A danger to livestock: Rice husk, containing high levels of arsenic, is being used as fodder for livestock, exposing them to the hazardous impacts of arsenic contamination. This is also leading to a potential risk for humans when they consume cattle based food products.
Cancer-causing agent: Arsenic poisoning is one of the greatest reasons for the growing cases of cancer for people living in India’s Ganga plains. It can lead to the aggravated condition of Cancer.