The Gonda Water Data story
Gonda district in Uttar Pradesh presents a unique picture of Water quality data. This above screenshot from the National Water Quality Information System of the Government of India is just an example — 459 high Fluoride Water samples, all of which are 270 mg/l !
Given that this data is from 2011–12 and has been lying around online for several years now, also tells us how poorly the dataset is observed by citizens and reported.
Why is this absurd — Firstly, 270 mg/l is an extra-ordinary value for a Water contaminant such as fluoride. Even values as high as 20 mg/l — 30 mg/l can be toxic to humans. And , secondly, to have the same value over all samples has as much probability as “a monkey typing out an intelligent book”.
Given that this data system is our official National data, and it is something over which planning is based on, it has serious consequences. This also tells us about the poor condition of our Water testing laboratories, data entry system and verification.
The problem is that this strange pattern of large values is not unique to Gonda in UP. The above map of such high values (more than 30 mg/l) across India for 2013–14 tells us that these values crop up in many states. Wherever any one such value enters into the system, it signifies the state of the data collection, analysis, reporting and verification system.
How do we go about correcting this. In some ways , it is simple. As more people start using this system in a questioning way, more such anomalies will emerge. Eventually we will start figuring out the root problems and how we can start addressing them.
One way in which you can help contribute to this effort is engage with this Information system, analyze it and write articles such as these.
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