Failure of Danish Development Help (Danida)-DPHE Two Bucket Arsenic Removal Project:

Danida introduced a year ago two bucket system replacing one poison to other. A huge amount of money has been spent to make this project a success. People have rejected this project. If you visit villages, you'll find villagers are using the buckets for using other purposes. If you ask villagers, they say, "First the water does not taste, colour of water becomes red and it is difficult to use the method!"

Aynal of village Ambikapur rushed to a NGO office and obtained two plastic buckets for Tk 20. He narrated the same problem but smilingly described, "If I want to buy such buckets, I have to pay Tk. 175 (3 US dollars)." His wife does not use the bucket for arsenic removal. This repeats all over the country.

But success stories and compliments are exchanged among organisations almost by the same authors. WHO (2001) Strategies to mitigate arsenic contamination of water supply, by G.J. Alaerts, N. Khouri, B. Kabir, The World Bank, Washington, DC, USA. Inputs and revision by G. Keast, Consultant describes:

Danida Project on Arsenic Removal in Bangladesh (WHO, 2000)Danida has conducted a research in Noakhali in Bangladesh since November 1998 on removal of arsenic using a mix of 200 mg/l alum and 1.5 mg/l KMnO4 introduced into a large bucket (18l), of which the supernatant is drained off after 1-1.5 hrs. into a bucket standing beneath it. Cost of chemicals for an average family is Tk. 10/US $0.2 a month. Lab tests show a removal from 1.1 mg/l As to 0.016 mg/l In the field level reality check, As ranging from 0.12-0.45 mg/l was reduced to 0.02-0.04 consistently. Though well within the Bangladesh standard, the removal efficiency was considerably less that in the laboratory. Stirring (time, mixing efficiency - paddle stick instead of cane stick) are supposed to make the difference and Danida is checking this out in a field situation at the moment. Danida has also designed a two-bucket column (total investment cost for the set is Tk. 300/US $6) which circumvents the resuspension of the settled solids. Danida reports that 50-80% of the two-bucket systems deliver water within Bangladesh Standards (Danida 2000).Co-precipitation is a well known phenomenon and has been the subject of a small study by Water Aid in East Madaripur near Chittagong. Fe ranges from 0-10 mg/l. In the first phase of the study it seemed that removal rates were very good.

  • The DPHE/UNICEF arsenic mitigation Action Research Project was implemented in 1999 and 2000 in five upazillas. The project's achievements at the field level included the testing of over 100,000 tubewells, the construction of over 500 alternative water systems (deep tubewells, pond sand filters, rainwater harvesters and dug wells), the distribution of 14,000 home arsenic than 900 arsenic patients and provided palliative care for symptom relief.

  • The DPHE/UNICEF project provided a valuable set of information and data on the effectiveness, real costs and sustainability of technology choices for arsenic mitigation under actual field conditions. Several technologies-notably household arsenic filters-were modified as the project progressed in response to field-level conditions. The project also reinforced expectations of planners that there is no single "best" technology for arsenic removal or alternative water supply in Bangladesh - rather it helped to narrow and improve the set of effective, acceptable and inexpensive technologies available for application by local authorities to respond to local conditions.
  • Perhaps the most important lessons learned from the UNICEF/DPHE Action Research project were at the institutional level. Like the World Bank-funded BAMWSP project described in the case study above, the design of this project emphasized the importance of working at the local level...
  • On the other hand, the project did not go far enough to establish and formalize links with local government authorities at the upazilla and village levels. This is now seen to be potentially detrimental to long-term sustainability. In addition, no system of community contribution towards the construction, maintenance and operation of the new water supply systems were put in place. This, also, would impede the eventual expansion of the model to the national level.
  • The project will promote an integrated approach including awareness rising, water supply testing, choosing and constructing alternative safe water sources, and patient identification. Capacity-building efforts will be focussed on the upazilla and sub-upazilla government authorities for the provision of communication, advice and action in arsenic-affected villages.
  • At the institutional level, the project's design reflects the lessons learned from the DPHE/UNICEF Action Research Project described above. Planning and implementation of activities at the upazilla and sub-upazilla level will be the responsibility of local government authorities supported by DPHE, UNICEF's field-based staff, and national NGOs. Technology choice will be made on the basis of local conditions and preferences out of a changing pool of acceptable technologies defined by DPHE, WHO and UNICEF based on the results of the Action Research Project, ongoing research and information from other agencies active in the sector.
  • Activities implemented at the upazilla-level range from awareness-creation and tubewell testing to monitoring and evaluation. The roles and responsibilities of all implementing partners differ from activity to activity and are pre-determined in the project design. The focus of the project on capacity building is reflected in the number of activities that include training and the development of institutional infrastructure. The design of upazilla-level activities also stress the need to monitor, evaluate and document lessons learned during the implementation period.

    The other foreign experts from WHO (2000) recommending their collegues from DANIDA:

    Danida has also designed a two-bucket column (total investment cost for the set is Tk. 300/US $6) which circumvents the resuspension of the settled solids. Danida reports that 50-80% of the two-bucket systems deliver water within Bangladesh Standards (Danida 2000). The Danida and Water Aid studies also look into the sustainability of methods at the household level. Apart from initial acceptance of a suitable method, households will also have to apply the technique consistently and properly to continue to avail of the benefits of arsenic avoidance

    Mr. Preben Gondolf, Counselor, (1999) The Royal Danish Embassy; on World Water Day organizd by NGO Forum mentioned the pilot project launched by the support from the Danish Government in Laxmipur and Choumuhoni Pourashavas where arsenic problem is quite severe. He said that although the right solution of the problem had yet not been found but at least a workable solution has been found out. He welcomed all to visit these activities and expressed the wish to provide service to those who are interested to work in the field and thus enhance a joint movement towards solution. The strategy of his Government is not to work in those areas where they are already working, which is not in line with the national policy and not in line with the general understanding and approach of how the problem should be solved. He emphasized that in future the seminars and workshops should explore “what has been done so far and make comparisons of different kinds of approaches” instead of “what is going to be done”.

    We welcome his view but is there any approproate step has been taken so far?

    Unfortunately, such remarks as in the past never reach the people. Most of the foreign experts can either speak Bengali or knows country's traditional heritage. Faridpur water supplies are continuously disposing of arsenic sludge nearby water body, possibly creating one of the arsenic hot spots. Shakti, Mubarak, Narayn Shiel and many others arsenic patients never obtained any help or gain from so called "pre-determined project design." A sick farmer sings:

    We shall plough no more the earth for rice
    But to see how far it is to the graves.

    The rickshaw puller Rahim can not work any more - lies most of the time without any medicine and proper food. He is poor and never heard from millions of dollar arsenic mitigation project.

    Is arsenic poisoning natural? Are their deaths also natural?

    The donors say "natural" or "the source will be never known".

  • 1. DPHE-Danida Arsenic Mitigation Pilot Project
    2.Some Examples 3. Former Ofwat boss attacks "excess profits" in South

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    Last Modified: July 22, 2004).