Nagpur: Identifying supply of safe drinking as a core issue, the government has said excess use of fertilisers was contributing towards contamination, which needed "prime attention."

"India is far away from (ensuring supply of) safe, sustainable drinking water in the country. Drinking water supply coupled with sanitation is core issue before the government and the country," said Vilasini Ramchandran, Secretary, Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS).

Ramchandran was speaking at a seminar organised by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in association with MDWS, UNICEF; WHO, and International Water Association (IWA) here earlier this week. The programme also included an international workshop on `Mitigating Effects of Geogenic Contaminants'.

"Water budget" can help the authorities in protecting the local water sources, she said in her inaugural address. Excess use of fertilizers was contributing to nitrate contamination, "which needed prime attention today," Ramchandran said.

To curb geogenic contaminanation (such as fluoride contamination), she urged the scientists to develop cost-effective and user-friendly technologies.

M Vijay Bhaskar, Joint Secretary, MDWS, said supply of safe drinking water to rural areas was a major focus area for the government.

Talking about `Bharat Nirman Yojana’, launched in 2005 with an objective of providing safe drinking water to all under-developed areas in India by 2012, Bhaskar admitted that the deadline would not be met this year.

Around 1 lakh habitations in India were still affected by fluoride problem, he added.