Students across India test water for fluoride

Schools Water Portal, an initiative of Arghyam, is a collaborative website that shares learning resources on water with teachers, students, parents and school managements. Leading up to World Water Day on March 22nd 2012, Schools Water Portal partnered with Oracle Education Foundation in a Water Quality Testing Programme with schools across India to spread awareness on fluoride contamination in groundwater.
 
Schools Water Portal is an online platform that shares learning resources on water with parents, students, educators and school managements. The Portal is a voluntary initiative coordinated by Arghyam, a non-profit organisation started by Rohini Nilekani that works in water and sanitation in India.
 
The programme was conducted with 1,339 schools from places as far reaching as Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan and Delhi Public School both participated, as well as other schools from across the country. 
 
A fluoride testing kit was sent to each school, and instructions on using the kit, collecting groundwater samples and testing for fluoride were put up on Schools Water Portal. Teachers could also access learning resources like presentations and fact sheets on fluoride and fluorosis on Schools Water Portal, which they used in class to complement the practical water testing exercise. Teachers submitted the results of the testing through a simple online form, enabling easy, decentralised data collection. See the programme page here.
 
 
Water quality kit
 
SWP home page
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fig 1: Fluoride testing kit                                                       Fig 2: Schools Water Portal home page
 
The Water Quality Testing Programme was an experiment using the internet to sensitise school children on the widely prevalent issue of fluoride in drinking water, a problem that affects 6.6 crore people in 19 states of India1. More than 20,000 students across India learned about the harmful effects of fluoride in groundwater, and the resulting health implications of fluorosis.

 

Teachers and students showed immense appreciation for the programme, saying that what they learned about fluoride contamination was invaluable. Nisha Saxena of Kendriya Vidyalaya Allahabad went beyond the fluoride testing, arranging a talk by an expert on fluoride contamination in the school assembly. Kendriya Vidyalaya Mangalore created a blog (http://arghyamprojectkv2mng.blogspot.in/) showing their participation in the programme, while another teacher, Naveen Verma, shared pictures of his class doing a skit on fluoride, with some students reciting poems and enacting a mime for the rest of the school (see figure 5 below).

Testimonials received from teachers
 
"Thanks for providing us with an opportunity to be a part of your nationwide project. We had an excellent learning experience.” - Sumathi Madhavan of Kendriya Vidyalaya Koliwada, Mumbai 
 
“Today's project members may be tomorrow’s scientists. This project is one of the most innovative
projects reflecting real life in the 21stcentury. My students really enjoyed it.” - Mr. Sreejith, Kendriya Vidyalaya teacher
 
“The project was excellent. It created awareness among students about groundwater contamination and the importance of water in our system. The test was very simple and the results were visible. It really created a scientific temper among the students who did it enthusiastically and brought water samples from different places tirelessly. We hope you bring more projects of this kind and request you to include us in your future projects.” - Gayatri V. from Kendriya Vidyalaya Dharwad 
 

KVS Ujjain

 

GHS, Blore

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fig 3: Kendriya Vidyalaya Ujjain, Bhopal                           Fig 4: Government High School Bangalore
 
 
Naveen Verma - Mime
 

DPS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fig 5: Students performing skit                                              Fig 6: Delhi Public School, New Delhi 
 
Social media played an important role in this programme, enabling teachers and students to share their learning experiences with each other. An open Facebook Group allowed teachers and students to share their pictures and videos and interact with each other, creating a buzzing community online. 
 
 
FB project page 
Fig 7: Facebook Group 
 
 
The enthusiastic participation of students is evident from the pictures and videos that the teachers took to document the process. To view all the pictures and videos on the Facebook Group, click here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/343173525711240/ 
 
 
Photos and videos on Facebook 
 
 Fig 8: Photos and videos on Facebook
 
 
 
The fluoride levels recorded by schools around India were visualised on an online map. The map shows fluoride results submitted by each school. Every dot represents the average of all results submitted by each school. The colour of each dot shows the average of all results from each school. Of the total samples tested, green indicates a result of up to 1.5 mg/l which is within the permissible level for fluoride. Orange represents fluoride levels between 1.5 and 2 mg/l, which is above the permissible level of fluoride according to the Bureau of Indian Standards but still at a level where coping mechanisms exist (such as rainwater harvesting, water filters and better nutrition). Red represents a result of more than 2 mg/l, which indicates a dangerous level of fluoride.
 
So far 679 schools have submitted results. We are still receiving results from schools, so this number keeps increasing. See the dynamic map online here: https://schools.indiawaterportal.org/map/index.php/map/cumulative 
 
Map
Fig 9: Map 
 
For more information contact:
 
Priya Desai / Reena Pinto
Schools Water Portal
Arghyam, Bangalore
Ph: +91 80 4169 8941/42 Ext. 33
E: schools.indiawaterportal.org / priyad@arghyam.org / reena@arghyam.org 
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