At a time when the entire state is reeling under lockdown till 14 April to fight against the spread of COVID-19 that has already claimed one life in the state, there are fears that regular supply of drinking water purified at different treatment plants in Kolkata, Howrah and many municipal towns across districts may be affected.

The reason: Stock of chlorine and poly aluminium chloride (PAC) – two essential chemicals required for purification of water at treatment plants in the state – will dry up within seven to 10 days. After that untreated drinking water from around 28 plants might have to be supplied in the city and other municipalities if the two chemicals are not available.

Sources in the State Urban Development and Municipal Affairs (UDMA) department feared that there would be chances of contamination in water, leading to another outbreak of water-borne diseases like diarrhoea if the untreated water is supplied to people.

“Four trucks loaded with chlorine and PAC were scheduled to arrive in Bengal from Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Jharkhand states by Friday or Saturday. But the units based in UP and Jharkhand manufacturing the chemicals could not transport these items owing to the lockdown. We have requested the governments in these two states to take prompt measures considering the situation as soon as possible,” said an official of the state government adding, “We are hoping that at least two trucks will reach Bengal by this week.”

The UDMA minister Firhad Hakim has also discussed the matter with his department’s officials to find out alternative arrangements for procurement of chlorine and PAC before the stock of the two chemicals dries up, it is learnt. UDMA officials have also started to explore the possibility of resuming production of the two chemicals at Durgapur Chemicals, a state government undertaking which is lying closed for the past few months.

West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) has shut down the plant that once produced chlorine and PAC reportedly on the charge of environment pollution. “The minister will take up the matter with the state environment department that controls WBPCB to resume production at the Durgapur Chemicals in line with the guidelines of the board,” sources in the UDMA department said.

UDMA has also contacted another private company that runs two separate chlorine manufacturing units in Odisha and Jharkhand respectively urging them to supply the chemicals till Durgapur Chemicals resumes operations. A fresh COVID-19 case was reported in the city today raising the number of affected persons to 10 in the state.

A 64-year-old man of Nayabad in the Rajarhat area was tested COVID-19 positive and admitted to a private hospital along EM Bypass with fever and respiratory distress. Two weeks ago he had attended a family programme at Egra in East Midnapore where some of his relatives who had travel history to the US were also present.