Setting norms for and treating polluted irrigation water - Need techniques and advice

From Abhay Kumar, Toxics Link, New Delhi
Posted 13 February 2007

I work for Toxics Link, an NGO which collects and shares information about the sources and dangers of poisons in our environment and bodies, and works for clean and sustainable alternatives for the same.

We are currently working on a DFID funded project on monitoring contaminated irrigation water and its implications for food safety along with University of Sussex, UK; Banaras Hindu University and Delhi University. For details please visit or

Under this project, we have found that with increasing shortage of fresh water, more and more polluted water is being used to irrigate food crops, especially in peri-urban areas. Such contamination can have serious implications for health and livelihoods of consumers of the produce. Various interventions can either reduce pollution at source, or in some cases, ameliorate the impact of pollution. However, such interventions will require cooperation between local communities and various agencies. It will also require an enabling policy and regulatory regime.

In the above context, I request members to respond to the following questions:

  • What are the different techniques to treat irrigation water having heavy metals and other chemical pollutants to bring them within permissible limits?
  • What is the process to set up tolerable limits for these contaminants - both for irrigation water as well as for food crops?
  • What could be the legal, policy and economic instruments to enforce such standards for heavy metals and other chemical pollutants in irrigation water?

The discussions will help us understand the nuances of the issue, and work towards suitable policy and technological interventions to tackle the above problem.

Please see attachment below for the responses.