This proposal was put forth at a high-level meeting between rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Bihar public health engineering department (PHED) minister Aswini Kumar Chowbey.
The districts in which high arsenic content has been found in the groundwater include Buxar, Bhojpur, Patna, Lakhisarai, Munger, Bhagalpur, Vaishali, Sharan, Samastipur, Begusarai, Khagaria and Katihar.
In other districts including, Gaya, Rohtas, Nawada, north of Munger and Bhagalpur and Sheikhpura, high level of floride has been found in groundwater. Urging the Centre to help the state in its effort to provide safe drinking water, Chowbey said, A poor state like Bihar cannot undertake this task on its own and so the Centre should approve the special package, including the technical support, to make water in the state safe for drinking.
I have spoken to the Union minister for rural development and he has assured that the state will be provided with the required fund, Chowbey added.
The rural development ministry, however, has asked the state government to first give the utilisation certificate for the earlier sanctioned Rs 120 crore, which was to be used for different drinking water projects. Once the state government furnishes the certificate, the Centre will have no hesitation in advancing the demanded money and technology to deal with toxics present in the water in the affected districts, sources in the union ministry said.
The other issue, which the state government highlighted at the meeting included total sanitation programme, which is being undertaken by the state government with the help of the Centre. When the programme was conceptualised, Rs 1,500 was earmarked for each household to construct a clean toilet. Out of this the Centre was to provide Rs 600, state had to chip in an equal amount and the rest Rs 300 was to be borne by the beneficiaries. The cost of construction, however, was revised to Rs 2,000 for each household.
Under the revised rate the state had to put in Rs 1,100, which has become unbearable. So we have proposed that the Centre revise its contribution to Rs 900 and the state contribute Rs 800. This will enable the beneficiaries to continue with their old contribution, Chowbey said.