Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 69, Issue 5, pp 1637–1648 | Cite as

Arsenic mobilization in alluvial soils of Punjab, North–West India under flood irrigation practices

  • H. S. Hundal
  • Kuldip SinghEmail author
  • Dhanwinder Singh
  • Raj Kumar
Original Article


A laboratory investigation was carried out to examine the mechanism of arsenic (As) mobilization under flooded conditions (24 and 240 h) in 18 alluvial soils of Punjab, North–West India. Total dissolved As increased from a range of 3–16 μg L−1 (mean 9 μg L−1) to a range of 33–1,761 μg L−1 (mean 392 μg L−1) with the increase in flooding period from 24 to 240 h. The amount of As mobilization varied depending upon redox potential (pe) created by flooding conditions. After 24 h of flooded conditions, pe of soil water suspension ranged from −1.75 to 0.77 (mean −0.24). Increasing the flooding period to 240 h, pe of soil water suspension decreased in the range of −4.49 to −2.74 (mean −3.29). Pourbaix diagram identified arsenate (HAsO4 2−) as predominant species in most of the alluvial soil–water suspensions under oxidized conditions, after 24 h of equilibration period, which ultimately transformed to arsenite (H3AsO3 0) after 240 h of anaerobic condition due to more reduced status. The solid phase identified was orpiment (As2S3). Identification of iron and manganese species in alluvial soil water suspension by Pourbaix diagram indicated decline in both soluble Fe2+ and SO4 2− concentration due to the formation of iron sulfide mineral phase after 240 h under anaerobic conditions. In these soils, decline in soluble Fe was also due to the precipitation of vivianite [Fe3(PO4)2·8H2O]. Elevated arsenic content and low pe value were measured in aquifers located in paddy growing fields comparative to aquifers of other sites. Large degree of variability in As concentrations was recorded in aquifers located at same sites. Thus, it is better to analyze each aquifer for their As content rather than to depends on the prediction on As content of neighbouring wells. The present investigation elucidates that flood irrigation practices in Punjab for growing paddy crop could induce the geochemical conditions favorable to mobilize arsenic from surface soils which could eventually elevate its content in the underlying shallow aquifers. Water abstracted from these aquifers by hand pumps or tube wells for drinking purposes could create hazards for local population due to loading with arsenic concentration above the safe limits. Thus, to avoid further contamination of shallow aquifers with arsenic, it is advisable to shift the flooded rice cultivation to other upland crops having lesser water requirement.


Arsenic Redox Mobilization Pourbaix diagram Alluvial soils 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. S. Hundal
    • 1
  • Kuldip Singh
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dhanwinder Singh
    • 1
  • Raj Kumar
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SoilsPunjab Agricultural UniversityLudhianaIndia

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