- Arsenic Mitigation Activities by Different Organisations
- Report: 2003
- Report: 2004
- Report: 2006
- 2007- Arsenic: the looming catastrophe
- Report: 2007 Arsenic Sludge Disposal-Another Man-made Disaster in Bangladesh?
- Report: 2008 Arsenic remains dire threat in C'nawabganj
- 2010- Arsenic contaminated underground water is one such severe problem which the government has failed to manage properly
- April 2010- Arsenic menace: a ticking timebomb
- Feb 2010- Over 85 million people at risk of arsenic related ailments
- May 30, 2010- Arsenic menace :Sylvia Mortoza
- June 21- 2010 - Arsenic in water poisons 77 million Bangladeshis: Report
- January 15, 2010 - Arsenic in crop
- News & Articles 2010-2011
- News & Articles 2012
Arsenic Poisoning in Bangladesh
ARSENIC: The Largest Mass Poisoning in History
It is a matter of great concern that at least three crore people in 61 districts are vulnerable to drinking arsenic-contaminated water and over 38,000 of them have already fallen sick. Arsenic contamination has clearly assumed menacing proportions.
The WHO had warned Bangladesh of the arsenic threat back in 1993 and the premonition is apparently coming true. It poses a grave risk to people's health in vast areas which are lacking in access to sources of safe water supply. The Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE) has launched its arsenic mitigation plan, but obviously it is overtaken by the progress of contamination. Water in the affected areas has been found to have a much higher arsenic content than is permissible
What is most striking about the whole arsenic contamination management scheme is the lack of orchestrated efforts to face the challenge. Reports say that in some areas people are drinking water from tubewells that were once marked 'red' to be avoided. This is a clear case of a grave danger being overlooked or, more likely, people have no other source to collect water from. Then there have been reports on availability of law-cost devices that could be used to purify contaminated water. But it is not known why use of such devices has not gained much popularity. Again, it is clear that the concerned departments have failed to launch the needed action . (Editorial, Daily Star).
What is more disturbing is that after misusing millions of dollar credit money - the authority is silent, press has shut its mouth whereas the suffering of the rural people continues... Those who are drinking more than 500µg/arsenic in drinking water are now death or seriously sick and those who are drinking less arsenic - time will speak! (October 20, 2007)
Field after field run along
Green winds sway tender paddy shoots
That spreads like open hair
In it butterflies ornamented with wings…
Mother earth smiles at her fertile pride.
In this harvest Asmanis (landless people) have no claim.
Field after field, forest after after forest, river after river run along,
the poor have no lobby or claim
In Bangladesh, too much of politics is prevailing everywhere and arsenic is not an exception to it. Mainly by virtue of politics and lobbying, few less qualified organisations are making evil efforts to dominate the field, which in turn is adding
another problem to this complicated issue.
The research, seminars, workshops, analysis of problems, prioritizing and decision-making for mitigation of the arsenic problem - are all taking place far away from the affected communities. The village people, the primary stakeholders, are not even aware of the disaster. They know very little about the long- and short-term impact of arsenic on their lives and livelihood. The ordinary people, women and children should be allowed to understand their own problem, they should realize the seriousness of the risks involved, and they should take their own decisions. Others should help them to take the right decisions and to implement these. We should not decide on their behalf. It is their lives at stake. It is their problem and they should prioritize the steps to be taken to ease the situation only then will the proper emphasis be given on the right solutions to be adopted following proper action. Decisions taken from outside, as is being taken now, seriously failed to emphasize the seriousness of the problem. There is no scope for wasting any more time as the life of millions are at stake (Zuberi, December 9, 2003).
Water poisoning in Bangladesh
In 1999, a BBC World Service report by Susie Emmett prompted the Bangladesh Government and aid agencies to do more to tackle the problem of drinking water contaminated by arsenic - estimated to affect as many as 70m people. Susie Emmet has returned to Bangladesh to find out if anything has changed.
Bangladeshis stare at you deeper, longer and harder than any other people I have come across. But the hardest stares I found to return were of those in great pain or dying because they have been drinking the water they were assured was safe. In the eyes of the man I met at one of the capital's hospitals I saw none of the much-praised resilience that the nation frequented by natural disasters often shows. The exhausted farmer had just made the long overnight bus journey from the far north in search of a cure for his ulcerated and bleeding hands.
He told me that his farming supported seven others, most of whom now also show some symptoms of arsenic. But working the land is becoming impossible and he is in debt. I watched a young doctor trying to break the news the farmer least wanted to hear.(BBC, 18 May, 2000, 15:48 GMT )
An international meet on arsenic pollution held here in mid-May and attended by key donors, pulled up the government and national political parties for not doing enough to tackle what they said was an environmental disaster bigger than the gas and nuclear radiation leaks in Bhopal and Chernobyl. ''We share the frustration at the slow pace of the work,'' World Bank country director for Bangladesh, Frederick Temple told the meeting. Mahfuz Anam, editor of Dhaka's English-language newspaper Daily Star felt that not much could be done until the country's political class took interest. ''It is a shame that political parties are indifferent to such a disaster,'' he said, urging lawmakers from all political parties to hold a discussion on the subject (Asia Time,May 26, 2000).
The criticism of the World Bank official came at a review meeting on progress of the projects under the 2002-2003 Annual Development Programme (ADP) at the conference room of the Local Government Engineering Department. State Minister Ziaul Huq Zia presided over the meeting. Poor management, irregularities, involving name-sake NGOs at various stages have caused financial loss to the government as well as deprived millions of people of arsenic-free safe water, the meeting observed (UNB, 2 Oct 2002).
Is there any change or improvement since this meeting? Till July 31, 2004 we do not see any change in attitude.
Arsenic contaminated wells labelled safe for drinking
Inaccurate labelling of wells in India and Bangladesh exposes thousands of villagers to contaminated drinking water
Thousands of villagers in India and Bangladesh may be drinking arsenic contaminated water from wells that are falsely labelled safe. This was recently revealed by researchers from Jadavpur University in Calcutta, who conducted a study on wells in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. Researchers analysed 2,866 water samples from wells that had been tested and labelled by field workers. They concluded that the arsenic test kits used by the workers are often inaccurate, resulting in scores of mislabelled wells. Villagers are therefore avoiding safe water falsely marked contaminated, and drinking from unsafe wells, marked safe.
The findings were published on the website of Environmental Science & Technology, a peer reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society. Shallow wells, known as tubewells, are used in India and Bangladesh to avoid the region’s surface water, much of which contains bacteria that can cause waterborne diseases like cholera. Starting in the 1970s, international aid organisations dug millions of tubewells but officials soon found that the tubewells were tapping groundwater containing high levels of arsenic.
Numerous studies have linked long-term exposure to arsenic with several types of cancer. The World Health Organisation advocates a maximum arsenic level in water of 10 micrograms per litre -- the standard recently adopted and used by the U S Environmental Protection Agency -- but many developing countries still use a standard of 50 micrograms per litre.
Another recent study by hydrologist Charles Harvey of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that drilling deeper tubewells might help avoid some of the problems of arsenic contamination. In the November 22 issue of the journal Science, he suggests that pumping water for agricultural irrigation may be influencing the release of arsenic into drinking water (Source: Environmental News Service, November 25, 2002)
QuestionsHow old is the arsenic problem of Bangladesh?
What is its magnitude now?
Though lots of funds have been made available so far by different aid agencies including World Bank, SDC, Danida, AusAID, DFID, etc. and a significant number of projects in the name of arsenic mitigation are also being implemented both by the government and non-governmental agencies throughout the country, how far have we been able to mitigate the sufferings of the arsenic affected people?
Is it the proper time to evaluate the achievements so far in this regard?
Is it the same promises has been repeated since 1993 by the same or likely policy makers?
The estimated capital cost to provide arsenic safe water to 29 million people exposed to arsenic content exceeding Bangladesh Standard (50 µg/, WHO 10 µg/l) varies from Taka 2.6 to 36 billion at 2001 price level depending on the type of options.
However, the cost will be significantly reduced if the people in the low contamination areas are mobilized to use the safe tubewells in the area.
Provision of water satisfying Bangladesh standard for arsenic will reduce the risk of incidence of excess lifetime skin cancer in the country from estimated 415,000 (0.321% of total population) to 55,000 (0.043%). An estimated, 1.875 million tubewells (25% of total tubewell) worth Taka 8.44 billion are likely to be abandoned for producing arsenic contaminated water exceeding Bangladesh Standard. About 73% of existing shallow tubewells providing safe water to 75 million (58%) people in the country may yield water with elevated levels of arsenic in future. A well designed active water quality monitoring program to test the safe tubewells at least once in a year is needed to be installed. The estimated yearly cost of monitoring of safe tubewell once in each year by field test kit is Taka 176 million. An institutional arrangement with greater role of Local Government is needed for installation, operation and maintenance of alternative water supply options and monitoring of water quality at the local levels (F. Ahmed, 2002).
The development partners have pumped millions of dollars into various mitigation programmes ever since dangerous level of poison in underground water was detected way back in 1993.
More funds are reported to be pouring in but the question is are they reaching the people who have been most affected by this rapidly increasing menace around the country? Several NGOs have been given authority through the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), to offer low cost services to prevent diseases caused by arsenic poisoning from spreading.
One such project for the 'poorest of the poor requires a group of fifty to donate as much as Tk. 4,500 in advance to receive a safe tubewell.
But the government seems to have forgotten that there are many 'poorest of the poor' who would not be able to gather any money, least of all the required amount (The Daily Star, Editorial, 22.06. 03).
The future roles for multi-agency efforts were discussed by the UN Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) during the meeting of its Inter-agency Steering Committee on Sustainable Development for Water Supply and Sanitation which was held in Beirut from 29 September to 1 October 1998 and attended by representatives of UN/DESA, UNDP, UNEP, UNICEF, UNIDO, IDNDR, ESCAP, ESCWA, UNESCO, WHO, CBD, and WSSCC. Agreements at this meeting for agency roles were as follows (WHO, October 24, 2001):Back to Content
- Department of Public Health Engineering
- Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply Project
- NGO Forum for Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation
- Dhaka Community Hospital
- Asia Arsenic Network
- Grameen Bank
- AQUA Consultants
- Bangladesh Engineering and Technological Services
Agency Roles WHO Health impacts and epidemiology Patient treatment through nutrition UNICEF Public information campaigns Mitigation through use of alternative supply sources UNESCO and IAEA Hydro-geology and geochemistry UNIDO Treatment for arsenic removal UNIDO and FAO Food security and agricultural aspects
But till today (October, 2003) we could not find any of their activities in Fridpur district, one of the worst arsenic affected areas of Bangladesh.Afsan Chowdhury (Senior Assistant Editor,The Daily Star, 15. 01. 02) describes straight to the heart:
Back to Content
- WHAT became obvious was the extreme contempt in which the official technocrats and bureaucrats held ordinary people. The entire idea of development in Bangladesh is based on the GO-NGO co-operation model and the people have little role to play in this.
- NGOs are generically fund seekers and now provider of employment. Most of them have almost no reality beyond this. And this generally grovelling bunch conveniently represents the public face in the eyes of the donors who ultimately decide policies.
- Not because they want to but because they have to. The ability of the national counterparts is so low that they would not be able to formulate a policy without donor support. They are unable to disagree either because that might mean fund cuts.
- So it all ends up in the same basket.
NGO Forum responsible for Arsenic Mitigation advertising in Faridpur for Pond Sand Filter (PSF) but in practice it has become a garbage!
A Pond Sand Filter (inclusive renovation of the pond ) costs about 150 000 thousands Taka (1 US Dollar= 60 Taka). Paradox is that close to the pond there is a tubewell painted green that contain arsenic far below the standard. It was not necessary to make an expensive PSF here. NGO Forum needs basic knowledge on project implementation! When we asked for a project report at NGO Forum office in Faridpur, they said, "We just distribute the project to other NGOs."Officers were not friendly to us!
"The NGO Forum maintains close collaboration with all relevant government agencies (DPHE, NIPSOM, LGED, etc.), Universities, UN bodies (UNICEF, World Bank, etc.), Donors, DPHE-DANIDA, BAMWSP, as well as other NGOs. It has established an Arsenic Cell as well as undertaking water quality testing, and shares all its findings of interventions at field level with all stakeholders. It is extending cooperation to others at field level for identifying patients with arsenicosis and for testing water samples The NGO Forum has developed and produced two posters and two leaflets on arsenic contamination in consultation with the communication and arsenic experts of different agencies" From NGO Forum Web.
We have not seen any successful mitigation event in Faridpur district, one of the most arsenic affected areas of Bangladesh. We wanted have poster and booklet at NGO Forum office but we have to pay about Tk. 300 (six days salary of a woman worker in Faridpur). Is it possible for the poor to buy such information? When we pointed out that they have many wrong results, specially one that we determined a high arsenic concentration (300 µg/l) at North Alipur but their representative certified to be of best quality. The NGO Forum Chief replied, "They give training, equipment and chemicals to their representative organisations, and not responsible for results."
Arsenic Removal Plants that we have examined in Bangladesh are not funtioning and producesarsenic contaminated water above standard. Unfortunately, people are not informed!
80 percent of Arsenic Removal Plants (ARPs) installed in arsenic affected villages of West Bengal, India are not useful
This is the 6th report of our study on Arsenic Removal Plants (ARPs) during last 5 years. *Our study shows about 80% of 600 ARPs we have studied from arsenic affected villages of West Bengal are not useful. About 2000 ARPs have been installed in arsenic affected districts of West Bengal. Average cost of each plant is around 1500 US $. So we had spent around 3 million US $ (equivalent to 15 crore of rupees) for ARPs. Bangladesh and many other Asian countries are also buying ARPs. ( School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta; India, May 2004).
Two Bucket Treatment UnitThe two bucket treatment unit (2BTU) is now the most widely implemented household arsenic removal technology in the region. Since 1998, more than 13,000 2BTUs have been installed in Bangladesh, and program staff claim that, as a result of intensive arsenic awareness and social marketing campaigns, as many as 90 per cent of these units are still in use," reported by Water and Sanitation Program 1818 H Street NW, Washington DC 20433 USA.
But where are those in use?
Failure of Danish Development Help
Two bucket filter to remove arsenic was introduced by Danish Aid and NGO Forum, DPHE. 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!" It was never published how much tax payers money was spent! We could not find any single unit is in use. But NGO Forum office said that two bucket system is used in the villages! We did not spent any more time to visit here again. DPHE-DANIDA Arsenic Mitigation Pilot Project: A pilot project under DPHE-DANIDA has been taken up in the south-eastern part of Bangladesh. The estimated cost of the project is about Tk 70 7 057 000 (Tk 60= I US dollar). The project is designed for three years and a half (up to June’2004) and will be implemented in two phases.
Back to Content
In May 2003 Dr. M.I. Zuberi, of Rajshahi University visited village Uporajarampur, Chapainawbgonj known for its arsenic contamination.During his visit Dr Zuberi saw there were some dug-wells provided by the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB) with the help of Christian Aid. There were also some Rainwater Harvesting Tanks provided by IDE. But unfortunately there is no water in either the dug-wells or the tanks.
He observed that women were coming to the dug-wells for water but finding them empty they went instead to 'red' painted tube wells and filled their pitchers with contaminated water. When asked, a woman said they have been doing this for several weeks now ever since the dry season began.
Dr. Zuberi's team visited several houses in two villages and found several dug-wells did not contain any water. As a result most households were compelled to drink arsenic contaminated water. They organized several meetings with the villagers and found the villagers were aware of the situation; but said they have no alternative but to drink the contaminated water! Dr. Zuberi advised the villagers to use arsenic removing filters, but when they went to buy some they were not able to do so. And as a consequence their little children, would-be mothers, young growing sons and daughters, are all forced to drink arsenic contaminated water knowing well the consequence.
A later report by Dr.Zuberi says: After seeing my report, the dug wells at village Uporajarampur have been renovated by CCDB, and I give thanks for their prompt action. All but one dug well now has water and the people are happy but one dug well in Durgapur which became dry even after renovation (near Abdul Mannan's house, local Forum Organizer) needs more attention.
Dr. Zuberi said: "What I have seen in the villages Rajarampur and Uporajarampur two villages of Chapai Nawabganj district; - the area where arsenic was first detected in Bangladesh - is, although numerous teams, agencies, scientists have visited this area, today villagers are reluctant to talk to anyone. They say 'you come and talk, take photographs; nothing has been done"
The scenario existing at Rajarampur is exceptionally grave. This very large, thickly populated village has been affected very badly by arsenic. There are now many patients suffering from arsenicosis but only four dug-wells and two arsenic free tube-wells are available. Proshika installed an Arsenic Treatment Plant, but that has been out of order for some time. The result is there is heavy pressure on the few sources available and many families do not bother to collect drinking water from any of these sources. Instead they use the contaminated tube wells. A similar situation exists in the neighboring village of Haripur where 90% of the tube-wells are contaminated. In this village there are only three dug-wells for the entire village.
In some cases we observed the negligence of the villagers because they do not want to collect water from a distance of 1/4 Km. Some collect only enough water for drinking but they are cooking with the arsenic contaminated water. They often drink this water too. Dr. Zuberi said he observed that the level of awareness is low, and they tended to give little importance to the possibility of arsenic toxicity.
Why do people die in arsenic poisoning?
The contamination of wells with arsenic is one of the greatest environmental disasters being faced today and must rank as one of the worst in recent times. At the request of contacts in West Bengal I researched the matter and found a technology that can get rid of all traces of arsenic. Since then I have tried to mobilise public opinion to find finance for implementation and have also talked to the West Bengal Government, people and authorities in Bangladesh, US AID, UNICEF, DIFID, SIDA and other aid donors
My own estimate is that one person is dying every 15 minutes and millions are suffering in illness. But very few politicians and bureaucrats live in the affected villages and the people dying are considered to be of no consequence.
Worse still, the token efforts of the World Bank and other aid agencies has added obstacles to solving the problem. If the captain of the Titanic broadcast a May Day message, most of these people would have commissioned studies on iceberg flows and common sense home spun ways of avoiding icebergs rather than sending ships to take the passengers off.
My conclusion is that:
(V. Chand, UK, 2003).
- the problem is chronic,
- the contamination is irreversible and worsening,
- no other safe water sources can substitute the wells,
- aid agencies helped produce the problem due to lack of care about environmental impact, and are today full of ill considered patronising solutions,
- the solution must fit village culture, be robust and be commercially sustainable,
- technology exists to solve the problem but it will cost a lot,
- no one cares sufficiently since its is all theoretical for them.
During our project work at village Kuzurdia, Faridpur we observed three deaths in one month (July 2003).This was not reported in any news paper. All these people were drinking arsenic contaminated water above 500µg/l. There are many patients in this village. We found that there is a shallow layer that contains arsenic below stanard. We made arsenic free tubewells, dug well and distributed clay pot filters to the affected people. Paradox is that those who were dyeing did not know the reason.
Bhatutola and Malipara, Chhatrajitpur Union, Chapai Nawabganj District
These villages were the first known as one of the worst arsenic affected areas of Bangladesh and most of NGOs and Government are engaged in this area. Prof. M. I. Zuberi, Rajshahi University, Bangladesh reports:
The villages are Bhatutola and Malipara, Chhatrajitpur Union, Chapai Nawabganj District, one of the worst arsenic affected areas of Bangladesh:
This write-up aims at to let our friends know the existing situation of arsenic contamination and mitigation in rural Bangladesh:
June 28th, 2003:
I visited Meherpur arsenic affected villages of Alampur and Bholadangh during 25-26 June, 2003 with the workers of Church of Bangladesh (CoB) who are working there for arsenic mitigation and social development. We traveled to the remote villages by motor-bikes to spend a day with them. What we saw and what have been reported by the villagers are reported here for Arsenic Mitigation Researchers.
The village Alampur is inhabited by 400/450 families mostly small and poor peasants, majority ( about 300) are very poor. About 5/6 had already died, 130 patients had been identified in 2002 and 149 during 2003 by the COB workers. Many of the affected are young children and women.
The second village, Bholadanga, with 250 to 300 families mostly land less peasants and some low-caste cobblers/cleaners is more acutely affected; 35 persons died so far; 70 to 80 are in bad condition with visible symptoms; again many are young . The CoB-Arsenic Mitigation Project (AMP) with the help of Christian Aid’s fund had tested all the 204 tube –wells in 2002 and found 70% contaminated with more than 50 ppb arsenic.
Only those affected having visible symptoms on skin have been provided with vitamins A,E,C for one month, yet many could not be supplied with because of limited funds; less serious patients were not attended for.
The villagers were asked to drink water from ‘green’ tube-wells; 3 old dug-wells have been renovated and 4 dug-wells newly established; many families consider safe-water sources long distance away from their homes and often drink water from ‘red’ tube-wells.
While we were discussing arsenic mitigation, a little girl was noticed washing hands and then drinking from a ‘red’ tube well; when interrupted she discontinued and said that the nearest ‘green’ tube-well is several houses away.
I observed that most of the house-holds do not have enough water-pots (earthen-ware pitchers traditionally used by the poor for storing water) for day’s supply; one pot is the usual and they go for re-filling it when becomes empty; so running out of water and using the nearest tube-well , though ‘red’ is very common. When asked about this many women talking to us agreed that this happens at night or during rains or when the person is very tired and thirsty; they also reported that it is difficult to stop the kids who developed the habit of drinking water directly from the tube-wells
In the low-caste village, Paschimpara of Bholadanga where there are about 120 families there are some 50 hand tube-wells, all marked ‘red’ except 4/5; many of the 35 deaths occurred here. Villagers described how they have been affected – since 6-7 years, first not knowing that it is arsenic from tube-wells doing these.
One very interesting incidence was reported which indicate how diverse are the problems relating to mitigation are; the section of the villagers have been collecting water from an arsenic-free tube-well several houses away, there was a social dispute and quarrel as a result that group took away the ‘tube-well head’ after there use so that those distant households can not collect water from this ‘green’ tube well. Though the tube well was supplied by the Government Department, the distant house-hold collectors were barred from collecting water, as a result they had been drinking water from contaminated for last 12 days !
Another important aspect of arsenic mitigation came up during a discussion with local news-paper reporters and leaders in Alampur village.
There are more than 100 Shallow Tube Wells (STWs) in this arsenic–affected village which are using the same aquifer as the contaminated hand tube-wells. Many are used almost round the year and 12/14 hours a day. There are 45 STWs in the other affected village.
They are intensely used during the Boro (dry season) paddy cultivation and must have been importing tons of arsenic to the surface ! There is no soil test done yet.
When I requested them as leaders of the village why not introduce ‘wheat’ during winter (Boro) season crop which require much less water, they said that they do not have a suitable HYV wheat for their region ! Why not local variety ? Yield less they said. Why not maize or vegetables ?
They agreed that that could save soil and produce same return. I mentioned that intensive Paddy cultivation is the most damaging agricultural activity- we must reduce rice consumption and cultivation if we want to save our environment.
I happen to visit Uporajarampur, Chapai Nawabganj, a village much known for its arsenic contamination. There are dug-wells being provided by CCDB with the help of Christian Aid’s support; there are rain water harvest tanks provided by IDE. But there is neither any water in the dug-wells nor in the tanks. I saw women coming for water from the dug-well and find no water , went to the ‘red’ tube well and fill the pitcher – I asked her and she replied they are doing it since the dry season set in ( for several weeks). We had visited the several houses in two villages and saw several dug-wells dry and many households are compelled to drink arsenic-water. We had several meetings; and the villagers are aware enough about the situation; but they HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE !
I mentioned about arsenic –removing filters; they want it, they want to buy it, they wanted my help, but I can not. No filters can are on sale ! Can you imagine the frustration of the villagers , their little children, would-be mothers, young growing sons and daughters , all are forced to drink arsenic contaminated water – knowingly !
A completely different picture has been reported by one member of our team from Village Ulipur of Bogra. The young volunteer, one of our 4th year students (S.M.Emdadul Huq), when visiting this village was surprised to see that the villagers have removed the ‘RED’ paint of the tube wells and are drinking water from these tube well. Most of the villagers gave no importance to this subject – arsenic- and did not want to waste (?) time talking about it. He managed to interview Mr Abul Hossain. Arsenic was first detected from his tube well in this village; he re-sunk his tube-well three times but failed to get of this dreadful poison; the local DPHE selected 4 members of his family for training on arsenic mitigation and gave them 3 pitcher –filters for arsenic removal. However, they do not use water from these; they use water from the contaminated tube-wells ! More surprising, there already are 5 deaths ( 2 women and 3 men) from arsenic poisoning ! Each and every member of the family has symptoms of arsenic toxicity on their body; there are warts on hands and feet; swollen belly; none can work; feel too weak and breathless.
We wonder what is the effect of DPHE (Department of Public Health) training, of all the TV and radio ads about awareness. I shall visit the village next week to examine the real situation.
During the 1st week of this month I visited villages in Pabna where CCDB is working for arsenic mitigation. There I came to know one Mr. Sohrab Pramanik of Rajajpur village (Pabna) did not allow the workers to paint his tube well ‘RED’ knowing (and the workers tested water twice in his presence) that it is arsenic affected. All the persuasion failed, he is still drinking and force his family members continue to drink water from the contaminated tube well. The CCDB worker will take me to that person during my next visit and I shall try to know his reasons.
The situation, the process of spreading arsenic to new tube wells has assumed a unconceivable dimension. Last week I visited villages just two km from the Rajshahi University Campus. The villagers of Kismat Kukhundi said that several of their tube-wells are now labeled ‘red’, there are many untested; we sampled and found three with as high as 616 ppb !
I also want to report what I have seen and the villagers reported during my visit on 08/06/03 to Rajarampur and Uporajarampur villages of Chapai Nawabganj disdtrict; this is the area where arsenic was first detected in Bangladesh and numerous teams, agencies, scientists visited this area. The villagers are too reluctant to talk, they said ‘you come and talk, take photographs; nothing has been done’
The scenario of Rajarampur is very grave; this is a very large and thickly populated village. Has been very badly affected with arsenic, there are many patients. Only four Dug-wells and two arsenic free tube-wells are there; Proshika (one of the largest NGOs of Bangladesh) has installed an Arsenic Treatment Plant which is long been out of order. There is heavy pressure on these sources and many families are not taking the trouble of collecting drinking water from these sources. They simply use contaminated tube wells; families of Latifur Rahman, Nawsher Ali, Shukur Uddin, Enamul haq, Faris Uddin are a few.
Similar situation exist in the neighboring village Haripur, 90% tube-wells affected, there are only 3 dug-wells for the entire village population
We noticed the villagers’ negligence in some cases. They do not want to collect water from 1/4th of a Km distance; some only collect drinking water but cook with water from arsenic contaminated wells. They often casually drink arsenic water, giving little seriousness to arsenic. I observed that the level of awareness is low, so they tend not to give importance to the toxicity of arsenic.
Current situation of arsenic crisis in Bangladesh (July 7, 2003):
We visited several arsenic affected villages of ‘Bera’ Upozila of Pabna (Western Bangladesh) during July 6 & 7, 2003. What we saw and what is said by the villagers are reported here for arsenic mitigation workers and agencies. We concentrate on the village ‘Syedpur’ which was reported to have 450 to 500 households and very badly affected by arsenic. More than 70% of the tube wells ( about two hundred) are identified and marked ‘red’ There are more than 200 patients with visual symptoms, we saw several in two families
The most important point is that many households are observed to use the ‘red’ tube wells for drinking and cooking. We had discussion with families of Isakuddin, Jinnah, Eunus ali, Dulal all from ‘Madhyapara’ of Syedpur – all are using water from ‘red’ tube wells. When asked why they are doing this following history came out.
There were reports of a large number of arsenicosis patients from this village 3 to 4 years back and several deaths had occurred. Workers from NGO Forum (they said) had screened their tube wells about 2 years back and marked the contaminated tube wells ‘red’ asking them not to drink water from these arsenic contaminated wells. Many wells about 70% were contaminated. When asked what they should do, they were advised to use ‘green’ wells. For those who do not have ‘green’ wells nearby requested alternative sources, the workers wanted to come back with solution later. But they did not. In the meantime they resumed drinking from contaminated wells.
Several months back, doctor and workers from Dhaka Community Hospital visited the village, collected blood, hair, nail and other samples for testing. They also given ‘Cards’ for each members of the families. But they said the had no feed back
Many other teams visited them, interviewed them, collected samples of human tissue, vegetables, tube well water, cooked materials. But nobody came back with any results, remedy or any other support.
The local branch of Gonosasthya Kendra (GK) has been providing some vitamins to the worst affected patients. Only last month initiative was taken to dig two ‘dug wells’ by GK but these are yet to be completed
The village community have no eagerness to adopt mitigation measures because they have lost all hope and responded vaguely to our suggestions of rain-water, solar removal of arsenic, solar treatment of pond water, charcoal/sand filtration and other remedial measures which they can adopt
Many patients are in need of intensive attention here, in a number of villages, there should be thorough mitigation action through community involvement; this need is important to bring back hope to the affected and save them from rapid degradation of the society. They are physically and morally on the decline ! the scene is simply pathetic ! A young girl of 15 named Nargis came to show her amputated leg, I could not stand the scene. We need to give immediate attention to the situation with a socio-economic approach
I had to go to a village in Chapai Nawabganj (Northern Bangladesh) last week for some mitigation activity. I was taking the weights of the children who are still drinking arsenic contaminated water (!) even after warning. Two dug wells have been provided but the water is not acceptable; it is smelly!
I came across with two young girls in their teens with babies on their laps. I talked to them and learned that they are from the same village and it is their babies in their laps. The babies and their teenage mothers were clearly seen to be very weak, underweight, and malnourished. When I asked them about their source of drinking water, they indicated the same ‘red’ tube well. I requested them to stand on the scale, after several moments the smart one stepped up first; she weighed only 35 kg, the second lady, 35.5 kg. When I requested them to allow their little ones to weigh, they readily agreed, the first one is 5.5 kg and second, 5.1 kg, their age is 12 and 13 months respectively
These two teenage mothers represent a young generation who have been on arsenic-contaminated drinking water for their entire lives and now giving birth to babies who are already exposed to arsenic before they were born. Arsenic travels freely in blood and readily cross the placenta. Their extreme underweight, frail bodies, and pathetic looks haunt me.We are likely to see more and more like these young mothers, and frail babies in our villages. Is this to be the picture of future Bangladesh villages! How will these future generations of villagers continue with agriculture, to give hard labour and to feed us!
Arsenic menace takes serious turn in Jessore
The Independent, CORRESPONDENT, JESSORE, Sept. 2, 2003
Arsenic contamination has taken a serious turn in Abhoynagar upazila of the district recently. Presence of arsenic beyond permissible limit has been detected in the water of about 3,300 tube-wells at different villages in Abhoynagar upazila of the district. Symptoms of arsenic-related diseases have been found on the bodies of 145 persons. Despite red marks the people of the affected villages are compelled to drink the water of the red-marked tube-wells as they have no other alternative source of safe drinking water.
It is learnt from sources in the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) that the Padakkhep Manobik Unnayan Kendra, an NGO, conducted a survey at the villages under eight unions of Abhoynagar upaila and in the areas under Noapara pourasabha during the last three months under the guidance of the Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation and Water Supply Project. The survey team tested the water of 19,068 tube-wells out of the total of 99,494. Of them the water of 3,300 tube-wells contained excessive quantity of arsenic.
According to a report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the tolerable limit of arsenic is 0.1 gram per litre of water. But according to the DPHE the tolerable quantity of arsenic is 0.5 miligram per litre of water. Samples of water collected from the tube-wells of different villages under Abhoynagar upazila contained an average of 12 milligrams of arsenic pre litre of water.
It is learnt from a source in the DPHE, Abhoynagar upazila that 310 tube-wells out of the total 1.643 of Prembag UP contain arsenic beyond tolerable quantity. A total of 191 tube-wells out of the 1,619 of Shiddhipasha UP, 117 out of the 971 tube-wells of Paira UP, 143 tube-wells out of the 1,225 of Chalshia UP, 564 tube-wells of Sridharpar UP, 244 tube-wells out of the total of 1,695 of Baghatia UP, 102 tube-wells out of the total of 1,166 of Shurorara UP, 53 tube-wells out of the total 768 of Sundali UP and 1,377 tube-wells out of the total of 7,694 tube-wells under Noapara Pourasabha contain arsenic beyond the tolerable limit.
All the tube-wells have been red-marked. The NGO authorities and the officials of the DPHE had advised the people of the localities not to drink the water of the red-marked tube-wells. But in absence of any source of pure and arsenic-free water they are compelled to drink the forbidden water risking their lives. Although the water of over 3,000 tube-wells under a single upazila has been contaminated with arsenic poison, no steps have so far been taken by the government to sink deep tube-wells to ensure supply of arsenic-free water for the people of the arsenic affected areas
Meanwhile, the Noapara unit of Rotary Club has claimed that the organisation has sunk six deep tube-wells so far.
A competent source in the Upazila DPHE told that efforts were on to sink deep tube-wells in the arsenic affected areas on an emergency basis by the government to mitigate the sufferings of the people under the upazila.
The suggestion was made in a preliminary report after a study in Jhenidah, Chuadanga and Jessore districts, conducted jointly by local and foreign experts. Use of deep tubewell has been suggested as a safe option in the face of arsenic contamination of groundwater in the country. The Tk 250 million (1US dollar= Tk 60) study was undertaken by the Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE) with financial assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
As per the master plan, four arsenic mitigation projects have been proposed. These are: groundwater development and rural water supply in Keshabpur, Jessore; rehabilitation and expansion of water supply system in Chuadanga, Jhenidah and Moheshpur pourashavas; supply of arsenic-free water to socially vulnerable groups and setting up of thana arsenic mitigation centres
Our study shows that almost all deep tube wells in neighbouring Faridpur district are arsenic contaminated. Geological deposition is also almost the same.
Our experience reveals that most of the deep tube wells are arsenic contaminated. Government and others want to sink deep tube wells without taking care of contaminating deep aquifers. But sinking deep wells are more profitable! Our work in Faridpur show that it is possble to find arsenic free water at shallow depths.
National Policy for Arsenic Mitigation
The draft has been prepared by a team of experts under the supervision of LGRD Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan (The Daily Star, 10. 05. 03).
- The policy highlights emergency steps to provide alternative safe drinking water options to arsenic-affected areas, rehabilitation of serious arsenic patients and research on arsenic in food chain, sources in the Local Government and Rural Development Ministry (LGRD) said.
- Under the policy, all tubewells and irrigation wells will be screened and monitored regularly to identify which have been contaminated. Arsenic patients and people at risk will also be identified to provide remedy.
- "Priority would be given to surface water options over groundwater sources. The options in order of priority include dug well, pond sand filter, rain water harvesting, deep hand-tubewells, arsenic removal by using chemicals and pipe water supply system," an official said.
- The policy outlines emergency steps to ensure alternative water supply. It said villages with more than 80 per cent of contaminated tubewells will come under the emergency steps. Besides, pockets of high contamination having high number of arsenic patients in villages with otherwise low level of arsenic in water might also get emergency response.
- Villages that have between 40 and 80 per cent of the wells contaminated would get medium-term response. For long-term response, only proven and sustainable tech nology options would be promoted.
- For municipal or urban water supply, the policy placed stress on providing treated surface water or bringing safe water from distant sources as an option. But here, removal of arsenic sludge is a must, it said.
- About treatment of arsenic patients, the draft policy provides for specific case management and a database on national prevalence of arsenicosis or arsenic contamination of humans. For serious arsenic patients, there will be a provision for treatment at all public hospitals. Besides, seriously affected patients will be rehabilitated, it said.
- The policy also proposed establishment of a network of well-equipped laboratories and steps to tap international expertise in areas where local expertise is yet to develop.
- All stakeholders will work within the framework of the policy, and government agencies will administer the policy in a coordinated way, it said.
Such policies or targets have been announced several times - too much words little work. THE government never took the matter seriously but they were always concerned that the crisis never became a political embarrassment. Because the BNP government had rejected arsenic mitigation proposal in 1993, and never taken the problem seriously, the then AL government was willing to criticize the past.
. The prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (October 2, 1999) said the arsenic contamination in tubewell water was first detected in the country's northern region in 1993. But the then government did not take any action to contain the menace which today has taken an alarming shape. She said her government has taken up the matter seriously and succeeded in creating public awareness and drawing the attention of the donor agencies and development partners. Considering the gravity of the problem, organisations like World Bank and Swiss Development Corporation have come forward with helping hands and the concerned ministry has finally drawn up the BAMWSP to combat the menace. The prime minister noted that a number of scientists and research activists, under their own initiatives, have already innovated a number of devices to combat this problems. The function was also addressed, by LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Zillur Rahman, Health and Family Welfare Minister Salahuddin Yusuf, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Communications Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, General Secretary of Gopalganj District Awami League Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Acting Country Director of the World Bank Mohsin Ali Khan and Acting Resident Coordinator of UNDP Andre Klap.
The prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia declared arsenic problem as one of its 100-day agenda for action but in reality nothing has changed.Back to Content
Ailing population adds up to more than total: Over 80 Million People are at Risk of Arsenic Poisoning
Disease and maladies in Bangladesh have reached such an extent that the cumulative number of the affected has exceeded the total number of the population, according to compiled data provided by health experts and the government in 2003. More than 70 million people are infected with tuberculosis and 4 million with diabetes, 7 million suffer from asthma and an equal number from chronic obstructive lung diseases, 10 million have kidney diseases, over 10 million carry the thal assaemia gene and over 80 million people are at risk of arsenic poisoning. An estimated 37 per cent of the population suffer from heart diseases and 10 per cent from some sort of hearing impairment. Diarrhoea is responsible for 21 per cent of child deaths and pneumonia and other infectious diseases claim the rest.
More than over 250,000 children die every year before they are one year old. Five to six thousand children develop cancer and the country is on the verge of an HIV epidemic. If the data provided by experts and the government are correct, this is where the country's health, or lack thereof, stands. Tuberculosis is still the major killer disease. Government estimates say 50 to 60 per cent of the population are infected with tuberculosis. Nearly 300,000 new individuals contract the disease and 70,000 die every year.
The National Tuberculosis Control Programme has an annual target of detecting of 70 per cent of the infectious cases but manages only 34 per cent on average. The rate of cure has been 84 per cent among detected cases against a target of 85 per cent. Mass poisoning with arsenic remains at catastrophic levels. Groundwater of 60 of 64 districts is considered affected, rendering over 80 million people at risk of chronic arsenic poisoning. Arsenic contamination of the food chain though groundwater irrigation is a newly discovered health threat.
Over seven million people suffer asthma, an allergic respiratory disease, and 4 million of them are children, said speakers at a national conference on allergy and immunology in March 2004. Environmental pollution, use of newer drugs, rampant adulteration and use of artificial flavour agents in food have been added recently to the list of already-blamed allergens like dust, flower grains and certain food. The health and family welfare minister said while speaking as chief guest at the inaugural ceremony of the conference that about 200,000 people develop allergic reactions every year after taking newly-marketed drugs.
The WHO also estimates that 9 million people suffer some sort of hearing impairment, a majority of which (over 50 per cent) are because of infections and thus preventable. About 8,000 estimated snakebites occur in the country with a mortality rate of more than 20 per cent.
A population-based surveillance by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Diseases Research, Bangladesh in a rural community in southwest Bangladesh revealed that mortality in suicide is 39.6 per 100,000 people, which translates to more than 500,000 deaths per year if the incidence is assumed to be homogenous. Though the mortality rate has been reduced over the past two decades, diarrhoeal diseases still account for 21 per cent of all child deaths in the country and contribute a big number to the 2.5 million deaths per year of children aged less than 5 years in developing countries.
Respiratory infections claim uncounted numbers of deaths every year. Kala-azar has also re-emerged. Malaria claimed over 500 deaths in 2003. Nipah encephalitis emerged as a new threat to public health last January and dengue stuck the country for the fifth successive year this year. An estimated 13,000 HIV patients reside in the country which is on the verge of facing an epidemic outbreak of the killer disease due to heightened risk factors and risky behaviours (New Age, October 9, 2004).
Arsenic levels in Barisal division alarming August 29, 2004
10,000 affected, 32 die in 5 years: Even deep tube wells contaminated at places Arsenic contamination of groundwater is alarming in Barisal with about 10,000 people affected. At least 32 people died of arsenicosis in five years.
Even water of deep tubewell is contaminated with the deadly poison at places, according a recent survey jointly done by the NGO Forum and the Dhaka Community Hospital. Of the dead, 22 are in Barisal Sadar, eight in Babuganj and two in Agailjhara upazilas in the district. The survey identified 334 arsenicosis patients only in Babuganj upazila. Conditions in the Sadar, Hizla and Muladi upazilas are similar, it said
Water of most of the shallow tube wells in the areas is contaminated with arsenic, which has affected a large number of people in different areas of the district. Conditions in Bhola and Patuakhali districts are no better. Arsenic has also been found in at least 24 deep tube wells in Barisal division-- 18 of those in Barisal, five in Bhola and one in Pirojpur. All shallow tube wells are arsenic- contaminated in 200 villages in 40 upazilas in Barisal division, the survey revealed.
Presence of arsenic is "alarmingly high" in some of the shallow tube wells. According to statistics, there are 16, 776 deep and 50,153 shallow tube wells in ten upazilas of Barisal district. These were sunk by the Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE), different NGOs and by private users to ensure safe drinking water. The deep tube wells found contaminated include those at Shahid Zia College in Nazirpur; Proshika office in Sahakati; Mahmudia Madrasha and Koira High School in Charbaria in Barisal Sadar upazila and at several houses in Uzirpur and Babuganj upazilas.
Arsenic has also been found beyond the permissible level in some of the deep tube wells sunk in Gazaria, Daulatkhan and Chafession upazilas in Bhola district. Once people were motivated by NGOs and different government agencies to use groundwater for safety. People are confused now as they are advised to use surface water again (Daily Star, August 29, 2004).
Arsenic mitigation activities by international organizations and major NGOs are generally undertaken jointly with a local NGO active in one particular village. The local NGO encourages villagers to form a committee so that the committee may act as the principal body to organize mitigation work.
According to AAN experience, members of such a committee are decided among the village leaders. One of the main functions of the committee is to collect funds to operate and maintain a newly installed option of alternative source of safe water. The running of the fund including the management of money is under the supervision of the local NGO during the initial stages. The committee needs some experience to become an independent running organization.
In practice, it is seen that only the rich becomes the member. In most cases 10 members selected from their family or friends and others are not allowed to collect water. We found in Fursa, Kanaipur Union, Village Tambulkhana dug wells and a deep tube well are constructed by SIDA/BRDB, although tube wells contain arsenic far below Bangladesh standard. The poor is unable to pay Tk. 3000-5000.In Noakhali we also found deep tube wells are sunk inside the house who pays Tk. 5000. Many complains that they do not use the water because it is saline and tastes after cow dung!
NGOs exploiting hill people: Larma
The Parbattya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) chief Jotirindriya Bodhipriya Larma alias Santu Larma on Sunday alleged that NGOs (non-government organisation) are "exploiting" the poor in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). "I got complaints from people who failed to repay loan installments", he told a discussion on Micro Credit Activities, held at the Hill District Council Auditorium at Rangamati.
"NGOs are being used to serve the purpose of vested quarters. I am personally oppose to the NGO theory," he said. Instead of developing human resources, the NGOs are busy in business", Larma said (Daily Star, June 1, 2004).
While setting an arsenic free well at Lal Miah's house, Char Hazari Union, Noakhali, n May 12, 2004 we were surprised to see a big gathering of women quarreling with Grammen Bank's representative. The women said, "We want to pay the whole debt as the interest rate is very high, but the represenntative does not want to receive it. He wants only the installment!" We found all over the country many poor are unable to pay such high rate installments (about 25-28% effectice interest).
At this place an expensive deep tubewell was set by DPHE/NGO about a year ago. Nobody uses this well because of saline and iron rich water.Our shallow well pours water far below Bangladesh Stanard (arsenic).
Arsenic Threatens 48,8,650 in Brahmanbaria District, Bangladesh
Two hundred and sixteen persons were affected with arsenic-related diseases in Nabinagar upazila. This is because of consumption of arsenic contaminated water. Water of 23,663 tube wells in 195 villages were detected to be arsenic contaminated.
Water of all tube-wells in 34 villages of the upazila are highly contaminated with arsenic. The most severely-affected villages are: Chander Char, Das Kanda, Sadekpur, Daponia, Islampur, Kamalpur, Lakhawra, Radhanagor, Bangaura North, Asrabpur, Pandabnagar, Padmanagor, Bhatpukur, Kajzlla, Barashikonika, Chalikhula, Chakrakhukla, Buldibari, Gunpukuria, Bajebishara, Piara Kandi, Char Manik Kandi, Dawlathpur, Kazirgong, Sampur, Kazimabad, Damkandi, Manipur, Nandua, Badruksa Bari, Bandukhar, Nasrabari, Ghiara and Rasulpur.
Water in all tube-wells of 58 villages are not worth consumption.There are 48,8,650 people in 195 arsenic affected villages. They are living in a very vulnerable situation. The Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), Brahmanbaria district conducted a survey and examined all 28,068 tube-wells and found water of 23, 663 tube wells were highly contaminated with arsenic. About 1,518 tubewells were completely out of order. The DPHE also detected 154 arsenic patients there.
The DPHE staffers marked red the arsenic contaminated tube-wells so that none consumes water of the tube-wells. But as there was no alternative, people were found to drink arsenic-contaminated water from the red-marked tube-wells. Even people used to drink water of the Titas river and other ponds. As a result, more than 300 people were attacked with diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases, local people and hospital sources said.
While this correspondent visited the spots, Abdul Kadir of Biddaya Kut Village told him that they were suffering from arsenic pollution for more than three years. But the authorities did not take step to mitigate their sufferings (Staff Reporter, The Daily Star, January 22, 2004).
In Gopalganj Water of 13,465 tube-wells arsenic contaminated
Arsenic has created panic in three upazilas of Gopalganj district. Arsenic has been detected in water of 13,465 out of 15,207 tube-wells in Muksudpur, Kasiani and Gopalganj Sadar upazilas, In Sadar upazila, 311 arsenic affected patients have been detected and at Chandradighalia village of Paikkandi union parishad (UP), 91 patients have been detected. As many as 3,38,990 members of 47,934 families in 211 villages were examined.
Most of the tube-wells in the affected areas have been sealed off by marking red and with a warning signboard by the Department of Public Health Engineering Department (DPHE), Gopalganj. A survey was also conducted by an NGO, Gano Unnaya Prochesta (GUP) in 22 unions of Sadar upazila from April 1 to June 30, 2004 (Daily Star, July 11, 2004)
Arsenic Removal Filter from tube wells (Tubewell Sand Filter):
A vertical column consisting of three chambers brick chips or iron chips, coarse sand, fine sand are the elements of Tubewell Sand Filter. This has been introduced by several NGOs and government orginisations. In Faridpur near Tulagram (left: picture) a TSF has been very recently constructed by NGO Forum. The villagers paid Tk.3000 and the total cost is about Tk. 50, 000/. We examined the water and found arsenic concentration 70 µg/l, in other words, it should be painted red.We saw that villagers were wasing brick chips, sands with pond water, in other words, contaminating with colio and other bacteria.
We found several other filters (TSF) at Aliabad, Bakunda are abondoned.The NGO Forum maintains close collaboration with all relevant government agencies (DPHE, NIPSOM, LGED, etc.), Universities, UN bodies (UNICEF, World Bank, etc.), Donors, DPHE-DANIDA, BAMWSP, as well as other NGOs. The NGO Forum is playing a vital role in the Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply Project (BAMWSP) as a member of the steering committee as well as in project implementation including selection of Partner NGOs and CBOs for any area selected. What a misuse of money!
Tube Well Sand Filter (TSF) Financed by US AID, SIDA, Churches of Industrial countries etc, May 2004
This was a good intention of the donors to give arsenic free water to the rural pupulation, but all the wells show a high content of arsenic. The filter elements are directed to be washed and cleaned every fortnight. The villagers wash in pond water and thus adding biological contamination. If they drink pond water, it is free from arsenic but contains biological, pesticide contamination. Arun Shiel of Murahidoha, Faridpur said, We have paid Tk. 3000, now you say that this water is not good. what shall we so? May, 2004"
In principle coagulation and filtration process work only with trained operator by public water supply. US EPA (1999) comments that coagulation and filtration is not appropriate for most small systems - high cost, need for well trained operaton variability in process performence. The main drawbacks of this type of treatment are the poor As (III) removal and the problem of the disposal of the toxic sludge produced which can contain high concentration of arsenic.
Available technologies for arsenic treatment:
Method Advantages Disadvantages Co-precipitation: No monitoring of a break through is required. Relatively low cost simple chemicals. Low capital costs. Serious short and long term problems with toxic sludge. Multiple chemicals requirement Operation requires training and discipline. Alum coagulation Durable powder chemicals normally available Efficient pre-oxidation is a must Iron coagulation More efficient than alum on weigh basis Medium removal of As (III) Lime softening Most common chemicals Re-adjustment of pH is required. Sorption techniques: No daily sludge problem. Requires monitoring of break through or filter use. Requires periodical regeneration or medium shift. Activated alumina Relatively well known and commercially available. Re-adjustment of pH is required. Iron coated sand Expected to be cheap. No regeneration is required. Yet to be standardized. Toxic solid waste. Ion exchange resin Well defined medium and hence capacity. High cost medium. High tech operation & maintenance. Regeneration creates a sludge problem. Membrane techniques: Low space requirement. Capable of removal of other contaminants, if any. High running costs. High investment costs. High tech operation and maintenance. Toxic wastewater. Re-adjustment water quality is required. Reverse Osmosis Membrane does not withstand oxidizing agents.
(Source, US EPA, 2000)
Multiple chemical requirement, operation requires a huge resource and technological training. High investment, high running cost,a high technical operation and maintenance make it impossible to reach arsenic free water for the mass population.
Most disturbing object is that these people who are using the sand filter never warned by the NGOs that the same poisonous water is pouring through their wells via filter.
Is it possible to do same in the USA or Sweden?
Toxic Dug Well Rings
To our surprise we found almost every where NGOs or Government making dug rings use toxic oils (Maita Tel - Bengali) containing PCBs, Dioxin, PAH etc., because it is cheap thus contaminating drniking water with other hazardous substancees. For example about PCBs:
Dangers of exposure to PCBs?
PCBs are a group of synthetic organic chemicals that contain 209 possible individual chlorinated biphenyl compounds. These chemically related compounds called congeners vary in their physical and chemical properties and toxicity. Over exposure to PCB's can result in damage to the liver (as severe as liver cancer), gastrointestinal system, blood, skin (rash), endocrine system, immune system, nervous system, and the reproductive system.
PCBs are toxic and persistent. They have been shown to cause a variety of adverse health effects, such as cancer in animals, as well as a number of serious noncancer health effects inanimals (e.g., effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system). Studies in humans provide supportive evidence for potential carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic effects of PCBs.
The different health effects of PCBs may be interrelated, as alterations in one system may have significant implications for the other systems of the body. In some cases, chloracne may occur in humans exposed to PCBs. Severe cases of chloracne are painful and disfiguring, and may be persistent. It is very important to note that the composition of a PCB mixture changes following its release into the environment.
This criterion is based on whether and how the oil is used. Oils used as lubricants, hydraulic fluids, heat transfer fluids, buoyants, and for other similar purposes are considered used oil.
To meet EPA's definition, used oil must be contaminated with either physical or chemical impurities as a result of being used. This includes residues and contaminants generated from handling, storing, and processing used oil. Physical contaminants may include metal shavings, sawdust, or dirt. Chemical contaminants could include solvents, halogenated volatile organics (i.e., halogens), or saltwater. Used oil and substances containing or covered with used oil are regulated according to the Used Oil Management Standards if they meet certain conditions. Otherwise, they are subject to being managed according to other regulations [40 CFR 279.10(b)].
Research in Bangladesh by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, (ICDDR) confirms that rainwater can be a safe drinking water source. The relative purity of rainwater makes it an attractive option in areas with uniformly high arsenic levels in other water sources. A rainwater harvesting unit was constructed by SIDA/BRDB at Muraidoha, Faridpur but to our surprise we found that the same house has a tubewell that contain arsenic far below Bangladesh's standard!
Deep Tube Well
Do we need high cost Deep Tube Well?
The other alternative for groundwater supply is the development of deep tubewells. The British Geological Survey (1998) found only two out of 280 tubewells below 200 m in Bangladesh to be contaminated with high levels of arsenic (WHO, 2000).
Note: Most of the deep tube wells are in the Coastal Areas of Bangladesh, where shallow aquifers are separated by thick layers of clay sediments. But Holocene sedimentary stratigraphy of rest of Bangladesh is completely dfferent.
Use of deep tubewell has been suggested as a safe option in the face of arsenic contamination of groundwater in the country. The suggestion was made in a preliminary report after a study in Jhenidah, Chuadanga and Jessore districts, conducted jointly by local and foreign experts. The report was presented at a seminar at Sonargaon hotel in the city yesterday. The Tk 25 crore study was undertaken by the Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE) with financial assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
"We are certain about safety of groundwater there although low level of arsenic was found in some of the wells we tested. However, we are not recommending sinking of deep tubewells in other affected areas without proper tests," one of the Japanese experts said while talking to The Daily Star.
He said, "We suggest no more sinking of shallow tubewell where groundwater in shallow aquifer is already affected. In such cases, exploring deeper aquifers would be a wise decision
The experts also prepared a 'master plan' in conformity with the National Policy for Safe Water Supply and Sanitation, 1998. The master plan has been prepared mainly to supply arsenic-free water in affected areas in the western part of the country by developing groundwater in deep aquifers.
The master plan suggests short-term, mid-term and long-term measures to supply safe water in rural and urban areas. Facilities in rural areas will include sinking of deep tubewells with elevated tanks, pipeline and communal faucet; deep wells with hand pumps; pond-sand filter and rainwater harvesting system.
Although in a recent report by Disaster Forum describes:
Representative of WHO, Mr. Mofazzal Haque informed the group that deep tubewells of Chuadanga and Meherpur were also affected. So not only shallow tubewells but deep tubewells were also affected. The group felt that the deep tubewells should also be tested as part of the programme.
Low cost shallow well (green) with arsenic free sweet water close to the DPHE constructed deep tube well (red) - saline and iron rich water at Noakhali- May 2004. Left deep tube well 12,00 feet by Swedish Aid through BRDB water contains 80 Microgram arsenic and saline, Right a Shallow arsenic free well drilled at Tambulkhana, Faridpur, May 2004 by this project.
The British Medical Journal(BMJ 2001;322:626-627 ( 17 March, 2001) in an editorial describes:
The Bangladesh arsenic mitigation water supply programme was set up in 1998 with a loan of $44m (Ł30m) from the World Bank in an attempt to assess the scale of the problem and implement some solutions (http://www.bamwsp.org/). However, little practical action has been taken, and the people of Bangladesh are still waiting for their safe drinking water. Potential long term solutions include digging deeper tubewells ..
In public health terms the risk of dying from diarrhoeal illnesses is greater than that of dying from arsenic poisoning. But the people drinking the water should be deciding, not the donor agencies. In the face of all this uncertainty, one thing is beyond doubt. If a developed country was cursed with the geology of Bangladesh it would have mechanisms in place to deal with it and its people would not be drinking poisoned water. Water problems tend to disappear when a country becomes rich.
Rhona MacDonald, editorial registrar
Our project (2004) shows that deep tube wells is not the solution. People rejects deep tube wells water as it taste saline or high in iron or smells cow dung (cow dung is used in Bangladesh for deep drilling!). Deltaic sediments of Bangladesh is geologically unique in the world, within contaminated aquifers, there are still undicovered uncontaminated aquifer.
But if, foreign consultants, depending NGOs or government's water experts draw master plan, there will be no solution to arsenic probleme in Bangladesh
Rich Don't Allow Poor to Collect Water
We were very surprised and shocked to see that an arsenic free water well was protected by white walls (picture) so that the poor can not take any water from here (Kuzurdia, Fariddpur). Immediate to this house we made a water well so that every one can carry safe water. We have made several water wells near the road side.
Under Government or NGOs project one has to pay 2000-5000 Taka, whereas the poor can not pay. We have seen in Noakhali distric, where many arsenic free deep wells are constructed inside the house. This is regarded as a private property. But a deep tube well costs about 60, 000 - 100, 000 Taka of tax payers money.
The simplest and most immediately achievable option is the sharing of tubewells that are currently low or free from arsenic. However, class and caste relationships, such as rich-poor or landlord-tenant farmer, impede sharing of water between families of different socioeconomic backgrounds. The use of financial incentives to enhance tubewell sharing may overcome some problems, however, social constraints may prove so strong that the efficacy of purely financial incentives is far from guaranteed.
This village supposed to be one of the arsenic free villages under the project of donors, ngos and government plan. To combat the arsenic contamination across the country Bangladesh authorities are studying the feasibility of keeping one pond in each of the country´s 68,000 villages reserved as a source of drinking water, with purification facilities. This was announced at the end of February (1998) by Minister Zillur Rahman, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development at a national conference on coordinated action for arsenic mitigation in Dhaka (April, 1999)). Now we see abondoned pond sand filer (PSF). Who is to blame?
We do not see any project report on mitigation activities by the Government and NGOs but find: UNICEF has allocated 2 million dollars to DPHE for installation of some 5,500 water points such as deep tube wells, rain water collection jars and pond sand filters for families affected by arsenic contamination . The UNDP programme, implemented under the Ministry of Health as an immediate mitigation measure in 200 villages in Phase I, is now being upscaled to another 400 villages in Phase II. It consists of five components - field water quality testing to determine the level of arsenic contamination, identification and marking of tubewells to indicate the degree of contamination, identification of patients and providing information, medical advice and medicine, collection of data on location of affected tubewells and other relevant information, and field testing of new technologies for separation of arsenic from tubewell water. The World Bank is providing US $ 32m as a first tranche to the national programme for both short and long term mitigation measures. The Bank supported programme will, as a first priority, undertake comprehensive national screening of all the 4 million tubewells in Bangladesh.
As part of the programme, community awareness will be raised and capacity enhanced not only for decision making but also for maintenance of any alternative sources of water supply or technology that is provided through the programme. For ensuring the sustainability of safe water supply at the community level, the programme will also build linkages with the local government, both at the administrative and representative levels, in order to ensure community empowerment and flow of funds
Abstract from:(National Conference on Coordinated Action for Arsenic Mitigation, February 27-28, 1999, Statement by David E. Lockwood, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh
Govt, World Bank signs deal for $40m grant today (June 30, 2004)
The government and the World Bank sign an agreement today for a $40-million grant for providing safe piped drinking water in arsenic-prone rural areas. Economic Relations Division Secretary Mirza Tasadduk Hossain Beg and acting World Bank country director David Hubert will sign the agreement. The grant will be used for the $55-million Bangladesh Water Supply Programme Project to supply piped water to around 300 villages and point source water supply to around 200 villages. The government, the private sector and community contributors will provide $15 million - the rest of the fund.
The Department of Primary Health Engineering will be the implementing agency of the five-year project, which will involve local non-government and community-based organisations. The department has so far screened tube-wells of 147 upazilas, under the Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation and Water Supply Project which started in 1998, and found 8.1 lakh tube-wells contaminated by arsenic. Officials of the World Bank told New Age on Tuesday that around 500 villages, which are severely affected by arsenic contamination, would be brought under the piped and point source water supply system. Around 300 villages with a minimum of 300 households each will be brought under the piped water supply system and around 200 villages, which have low density of households, will be brought under the point source water supply system, said Khawaza Minnat Ullah, senior water supply and sanitation specialist of the World Bank.
He said that around 40 to 50 small-scale schemes or pilot demonstration projects of safe drinking water supply have been taken up in the country over the past few years by different authorities including the Rural Development Board and the public health engineering department. He said the bank-funded project would be a full-fledged pilot project. During a field visit to a pilot demonstration project of supplying piped water at Pakundia village in Sonargaon upazila on Tuesday, it was found that 132 houses, out of 450, have taken water connection. As most of the hand-operated tube-wells of the area, one of the arsenic contaminated places of Narayanganj district, are contaminated by arsenic, BRAC in collaboration with the DPHE, UNICEF and RDA, implemented the project in 2001. WB provided the technical assistance.
Villagers to pay 20 per cent of the project cost
The villagers who had taken the water connections paid 20 per cent of the project cost of around Tk 30 lakh in the form of a fee of Tk 2,500 for each connection. Each household has to pay Tk 60 for unlimited use of water in a month to a committee formed by the villagers. Piped water is being supplied by extracting water through a deep aquifer tube-well which extracts arsenic free water from around 800 feet below the surface.
However, more than half of the villagers are yet to take water connections as they "were unable to pay Tk 2,500 as connection fee". A bank official said in the upcoming project, water connections might be provided by the NGOs and later they would adjust the amount with the water bills.
What may we know of the secret sorrow of the poor?
The poor in the developing world pay on average 12 times more for water than people connected to municipal systems, according to an ongoing study by the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century. While the rich benefit from subsidized treated piped water, water vendors charge the poor up to 100 times more for water of doubtful quality in some cities such as Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Nouakchot, Mauritania. We know from econometric analysis, that the poorest suffer the most from arsenicosis in Bangladesh (WHO, 2000). Most arsenic patient of Bangladesh is still drinking arsenic contaminated water and can hardly afford any medical treatment or piped water.
The poorest can barely afford to offer money or time for a village committee or maintenance of installations. Therefore, local communities allow each of the families that are making use of the water resource to contribute an amount they can afford. Sometimes, contribution from 30 families for a deep tubewell of Tk. 5000 varies between Tk. 0 and Tk. 800 or piped water. Relatively well-off people who can afford to contribute a large amount of money or to become a member of a village committee, are able to derive more privileges from their increased status.
Despite the quite impressive network of DPHE thana, district and division offices, these departments are hopelessly subject to inefficiency, bureaucracy, corruption, lack of capacity, lack of capabilities, lack of professionals etc.
The WB functions best in countries like ours because we have no performance audits, no accountability, extreme crony corruption and, to be honest, inadequate mental faculties to challenge them. Those who have chase them for assignments. And so everyone has a stake in the World Bank.. What became obvious was the extreme contempt in which the official technocrats and bureaucrats held ordinary people. The entire idea of development in Bangladesh is based on the GO-NGO co-operation model and the people have little role to play in this. NGOs are generically fund seekers and now provider of employment. Most of them have almost no reality beyond this. And this generally grovelling bunch conveniently represents the public face in the eyes of the donors who ultimately decide policies. Not because they want to but because they have to. The ability of the national counterparts is so low that they would not be able to formulate a policy without donor support. They are unable to disagree either because that might mean fund cuts. So it all ends up in the same basket (Afsan Chowdhury, 2002).
The arsenic hazard in Bangladesh villages now appeared as a ‘real disaster’, affecting thousands physically, physiologically, mentally and economically; it is intensifying malnutrition, poverty and destitution among the already poor villagers. The future of the Bangladesh villages are jeopard
This was a very hot and humid day as other days in July. we were watching the daily workers at a remote village in Bakunda, Faridpur, while waiting for our drilling equipment. The workers most of the time are sitting under a shadow of a tree. The care taker who looks after the work said, "you can see they don't work properly. But I can't say anything because it is contract job (salary according to the amount of soil they dig)." I just began to talk with worker. They looked very tired and sick. When I saw their palm and feet found signs of very advanced arsenic poisoning. Karim said, "I am very tired. We live in Nagarkandi and most of the people in our village have the same symtom."
"Sir, is it not possible to come to our village, and give us arsenic free water."
The village was far away from our project area. We did not have the resource. our project proposal have been rejected by the Ministry of Local Government and resource Development, in charge of arsenic mitigation.
In village Bazar, tea shops where we go, have to face the same question.
The lonely farmer plays the flute and
Black night mixes with black pain,
From the time to time the sand bank shivers
And sand blows.
The sand bank sleeps in pain
To the sound of flute.
It is a pain that make me stun and do not have words to narrate.
Thousands of villages still drinking poisonous water. It was not their fault. But elites of North and South agrees to be "natural" poisoning!!!Source of Arsening Poisoning Back to Content
Countless editorials and reports have been published on arsenic contamination but we all know that as far as concrete results are concerned, our achievements have not been overwhelming. In fact, a recent report bares all the facts before us and we know that in the last three years 36 persons have died, 38,500 are affected and about 7 crore people face a direct threat. So far, around 50 lakh tube-wells have been checked and of them, 14 lakh, a staggering number, have been identified to contain arsenic.
Though in other countries 0.01 milligram of arsenic in one litre of water is considered acceptable, in Bangladesh, that limit is 0.05 milligram. Unfortunately, in many upazilas the level is way too high and despite the presence of the seven-year arsenic mitigation programme that started in 1998 with a budget of Tk178 crore, progress in this project has been frightfully torpid. Funded predominantly by the World Bank, this programme has had some success in creating public awareness in 190 upazilas along with training 2330 doctors and 12 thousand health workers but till today millions are still faced with the prospect of arsenic contamination due to lack of proper knowledge and viable options. Interestingly, arsenic contamination and the layers of subterranean water are related issues because research has shown water from the top level to be contaminated. But, in the capital we mainly use water from deeper levels and thus the contamination level is almost non-existent. It would be a prudent move to use water from deeper levels for personal use and water from the upper levels for irrigation purposes.
Acknowledging the unmitigated importance of awareness we feel that the campaign to raise awareness level, relevant bodies should go for aggressive publicity. Yes, we have had awareness programmes but they have not been as intense as they should have been. Already, arsenic contamination has taken a deadly form in 9 thousand villages with 80 to 100 per cent contamination and if the present move aimed at mitigation is not geared up then arsenic will continue to kill and deform.
There have been a lot of seminars but we feel that more should be done at the field level. At the same time, there must be workshops in schools and colleges in the rural areas focusing on the benefits of fresh water. Sadly, many people in the cities do not realise the importance of fresh water and in the rural areas the picture is more hopeless.
In the end, success rate can be accelerated if the government takes a two-year crash programme and is determined to reduce arsenic contamination within a stipulated time. We believe that time has come for drastic moves because a lethargic treatment will only act as a catalyst for the social malaise to develop. Source: New Age, May 19, 2006
Eliminating the threat from arsenic in the water supply
World Challage 2006 - BBC World, Newsweek
In the Indian caste system, a Dalit, often called an untouchable, is a person who does not have any varnas. They are also known as outcastes. Included are leather-workers (called chamar), poor farmers and landless laborers, scavengers (called bhangi or chura), street handicrafters, folk artists, clothes washers dhobi etc
The Dalit people of India have been the most widely oppressed caste for more than three thousand years. Indian Dalits comprise nearly 1/4 of the total population, a massive 250 million men, women, and children. Dalits are considered the "outcasts" of Indian society - the "untouchables", those the Hindu scriptures call the "unborn" - translated: it would be better if they had never been born.
Dalits are denied access to public wells, public parks, basic medical services, and education. Many restaurants even use drinking glasses reserved only for Dalits. The ruling caste tells them they are Hindu, yet they are denied access to the temples, cannot become temple priests, and are even prohibited from reading the Hindu scriptures. Seventy percent of Dalits live below the poverty line. Only 10% of Dalit women can read and write, and are often sold into bonded prostitution.
The caste system is an integral part of Indian society dating back to the time of the Aryan invaders to India. The Hindu religion sanctioned the caste system. Caste is considered worse than racism by the Dalits. Dalits across the nation, however, have experienced an awakening and are now demanding equal human rights and dignity. They believe rejecting the Hindu caste system and turning to an ideology of spiritual freedom and acceptance, and getting an education are the keys to finding liberation. On November 4, 2001, the Dalit community gathered in New Delhi to break free from the Hindu caste system. On that day, Indian Christian leaders stood in solidarity with the Dalits in their quest of liberation. This has led to the formation of this international network committed to helping the oppressed Dalits of India.
The contamination of the water supply in parts of Bangladesh and northern India with large quantities of arsenic has been described as the worst case of mass poisoning in recorded history. Long-term exposure to even small quantities of the poison can result in skin lesions, localised gangrene and eventually cancers of the skin, lungs, bladder and kidneys. Located in Khulna, Bangladesh, NGO Dalit is fighting the scourge of arsenic contamination by locating and tapping rare pure water sources, installing filtration systems and researching herbal remedies for arsenic-related diseases. The project also includes an educational element aimed at acquainting people with the dangers of arsenic poisoning – and how to avoid them. The NGO is named after the Hindu Dalit people who are discriminated against in Bangladeshi society and have suffered disproportionately from arsenic poisoning.
Inadequate progress in addressing the arsenic problem
The sixth International Conference on ‘Safe Water and Safe Food Options in Arsenic Mitigation: Lesson Learnt’ in the capital on Wednesday adopted a 10-point declaration, expressing concern that the arsenic contamination, which causes deadly diseases, are yet to be taken with adequate seriousness by the governments concerned. The two-day conference began at the Dhaka Community Hospital conference room on Wednesday morning. It was jointly organised by the School of Environmental Studies of Jadabpur University of India and Dhaka Community Hospital where experts from USA, Australia, India, Singapore and the host Bangladesh took part.
On the opening day of the conference several papers on water options and safe water use, arsenic contamination and its impact on food chain, soil and environment and arsenic poisoning and health issues were presented in four sessions. Speakers said the problem of arsenic contamination went beyond that of drinking water and its direct effect was found in the food chain, soil and environment.
They also recommended tapping into indigenous knowledge and resources available to use various water sources and ensure the safety of such water bodies. The conference highlighted issues like arsenic in food chain, alternative water harvesting, management of arsenicosis and media role increase people’s awareness about the effects of arsenic poisoning. Professors Mahmudur Rahman, of Dhaka Community Hospital , Richard Wilson and David Christiani of Harvard University, Ravi Naidu of South Australia University, Willard Chappell of the Ubiversity of Colorado, Dipankar Chakravarty of Jadavpur University, Alan Smith of Barkely University, Meera M Hira Smith of University of California, Swapan Adnan of National University of Singapore, Firoz Ahmed of BUET, Ainun Nishat of IUNC, Emamul Huq of Dhaka University, SKM Abdullah of DCH, Hossain Zillur Rahman of PPRC, Guy Howard of APSU took part in different sessions. Among others, editor of the Daily Star, Mahfuz Anam, acting editor of New Age, Nurul Kabir and editor of the Independent, Mahbubul Alam, also spoke.
In the session on the role of media in implementing sustainable water management policy the senior journalists said news media should play a vital role to create pressure on the government to address the problem on priority basis raise mass awareness. Professor Quazi Qumruzzaman of the Dhaka Community Hospital chaired the session.
Mahfuz Anam criticised all concerned for inadequate progress in addressing the arsenic problem and urged the organisers to provide the media with specific information about the present state of arsenic contamination across the country. The other demands of the conference included media campaign to make people aware of arsenic contamination, supply of safe drinking water, monitoring installation of all tube wells to ensure proper depth, a call for an independent third party evaluation of all the deep tube wells across the country and measures for maximum use of rainwater (New Age, January 5, 2006).
After Spending Millions of Dollar from the World Bank by the Government - Still Arsenic contamination poses serious health hazards in Magura
Serious arsenic contamination in most of the tube-wells in 20 villages under Shalikha upazila is posing a serious health hazard to the locals. Of them, arsenic contamination in three villages are, Seeazzati, Vulbaria and Hathazari has taken a serious turn. Members of above 200 families were affected by arsenic disease in these villages seriously.
In Sewazati village 21 arsenic patients were identified as Mamota (23), Chandricka Rani (26), Tonmoy Biswas (2), Anol Biswas (32), Nayan Chandra (85), Amit Biswas (45), Moyan Biswas (32), Asit Biswaas (20(, Popy Halder (12), Poly (14), Anik Biswas (5), Kamalendu Biswas (20), Kingsol Rani (2), Apurbo (16), Joya (16), Supadi (48), Endu Rani (35), Nimoy (44), Mihir (19) Tripti (30) and Bimol Biswas (40). Besides this, above 100 persons were seriously attacked by arsenic in the village. In Vulbaria and Hazrahati village 28 persons were detected as arsenic patient.
According to Upazila Health Complex and Public Health sources, this arsenic contamination was mainly spread by tube-wells.
According to the sources, above 3000 tube-wells out of total 12,500 in seven unions of the upaizla have water with dangerous level of arsenic.
They added that, this problem has taken serious turn due to flood situation also. Besides, they found excessive level of arsenic in most of the tube-wells in 17 others villages. The villages are : Dhapuapara, Tuknapara, Hutlaksmipur, Laksmipur, Dhaneswargati, Amian Kola, Singra, Chandra, Chatkabaria, Sharsuna, Gabindapur, Sabek Khato, Gajdubba, Shatokhali, Baraichara and Kotbag.
In these villages 160 persons have been detected as arsenic patient and took necessary treatment by local health centres. The Department informed, these arsenic contaminated tube-wells have been already red marked and the locals were requested not to drink water of these tube-wells. Moreover, the problems have been notified to the concerned higher authorities more than once to take step immediately, the sources, added (Source: The New Nation, September 18, 2007).
Magura* sub-division was established in 1945 and was turned into a district in 1984. The district consists of 4 upazilas, 1 municipality, 18 wards, 61 mahallas, 36 union parishads, 537 mouzas, and 700 villages. The upazilas are magura sadar, mohammadpur, salikha and sreepur; the municipality is Magura Sadar. Indigo uprising of 1859-60, the remnants of Neelkuthi at Hajrapur, Boroi, Amtail Nahati are marks of extensive indigo cultivation. Extinct or nearly extinct crops Indigo, barley, china and corn.
Arsenic: the looming catastrophe
The full dimension of the problem of arsenic in groundwater is emerging with disturbing portents of what can eventually prove to be a health and environmental catastrophe. Arsenic contamination in drinking water was suddenly detected in the 1980s when, ironically, the country was permitting itself the woolly self-satisfaction that the problem of contaminated drinking water in rural areas was solved by universalising the use of tube-wells. Arsenic contamination was reported in tube-well water of some western districts of the country, and with time it was becoming clear that arsenic was present in the groundwater of vast swaths of the country.Back to Content
Although the alarm bell had been ringing the response was inadequate. Arsenic acts slowly and now after twenty years reports of death from arsenicosis are piling up. In Pabna alone 15 people are said to have died from arsenic-related causes over a period of seven years. According to government sources quoted in newspaper reports, 50,000 people are suffering from arsenicosis in the country. Surveys have revealed that 30 million people of the country are at risk. According to the World Health Organisation standard, the level of arsenic in drinking water should not be in excess of .01 mg per litre.
Arsenic is a global problem affecting 140 million people in 70 countries, as reported in New Age on Friday. Precious time was lost and the twenty years have seen little activity in protecting people in the affected areas. All that the public health engineering people and the NGOs do is to red-mark the dangerous tube-wells but hardly is any arrangement made for supplying safe water. The red mark is washed away with time and life in the affected villages continues as before and more people contract arsenicosis. Many people in villages are aware of the dangers but continue to drink water from the affected well as they cannot help it. This is an international menace and international cooperation should be sought. There does not appear to be a single remedy universally applicable and some local mitigating methods have to be tried. There has to be greater reliance on surface water, duly treated, in areas where it is available. In particularly vulnerable areas like those in Kushtia and Pabna deep tube-wells may be sunk. But deep tube-well should be sunk or ‘ring well’ dug in or around community facilities and not on private lands, in which case rivalry and tension will be inevitable. And this is already happening.
A variety of filters have been devised to rid drinking water of arsenic. The merits of these devices should be closely examined and the right one promoted. So far the commitment is lacking. The menace should be controlled before it overwhelms the health sector (New Age, September 02, 2007 ).
US National Academy of Engineering announces $1m prize Bangladesh, Friday, February 2, 2007Sono Filter of Bangladesh has won the one million dollar prize of the US-based National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for inventing a technology to remove arsenic from contaminated water. Abul Hussam, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at George Mason University, Virginia, USA, and Dr AKM Munir, a physician from Kushtia, innovated the technology.
NEA President Wm A Wulf officially declared Sono Filter as the winner of "The Grainger Challenge Prize for Sustainability" at Washington yesterday. The prize-giving ceremony will take place on February 20 at the NAE Complex Washington. Hussam and Munir started experimenting on the Sono Filter around seven years back and Kushtia-based NGO Manab Shakti Unnayan Kendro has been distributing the filters in arsenic affected areas at the upazila level since 2004.
The NAE introduced the one million dollar award in January 2005 for innovating a sustainable, cost-effective and socially accepted technology as the technologies available for removing arsenic from contaminated water were not beyond questions. The goal of the Grainger Challenge Prize is to encourage the innovation of household or community-scale water treatment system to remove arsenic from the contaminated groundwater. The system must have a low life-cycle cost and must be robust, reliable, easily maintainable, socially acceptable, and affordable, said a press release. As a sustainable technology, the system must also be within the manufacturing capabilities of a developing country and must not degrade other water quality characteristics and to promote green design philosophies.
The Sono Filter was one of the 15 technologies out of more than 100 entries selected to compete in the final/testing stage of the challenge which began in early July 2006. The total testing and technology evaluation procedure was conducted by United States Environmental Protection Agencies (US-EPA) testing and evaluation facilities at Cincinnati, Ohio and reviewed by a panel of 10-member reviewers committee.
Arsenic Sludge Disposal-Another Man-made Disaster in Bangladesh? by Meer Husain, USA
The pursuit of science is to seek unbiased knowledge of the nature and apply the same for the wellbeing of humanity. In doing so we must remember our responsibility to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem and sustainability of the well being for the posterity to come. In keeping with this principle it is necessary to evaluate each and all invention and innovations.
The arsenic removal filtration systems including your SONO filter in Bangladesh, in our opinion, are not offering a sustainable solution to the arsenic disaster in Bangladesh. On the contrary it is headed to widen the disaster to a larger population. It should not be difficult to understand if we look at the origin of the arsenic problem and potential hazards of filter wastes. Further, in this communication, we would like point out your basic misunderstanding of TCLP and the issue of landfill in the context of Bangladesh environment. It is our belief that your misinterpretation and misunderstanding has led you to accept indiscriminate dumping of arsenic-laden wastes. Construction of leak proof sanitary landfill in Bangladesh climate is neither economical nor technically operable. Additionally, we bring to our readers your rhetoric that has been published in different news media is misleading public and the scientific community. Your mistaken claims violate award criteria. These naturally raises question regarding ethical standard that you are following in search of scientific truth. We invite you to refute these as soon as possible.
The Root Cause of arsenic release:
At the surface level, the removal of arsenic from arsenic-contaminated groundwater by filters and water treatment plants is creating toxic sludge/concentrated toxic wastes. The indiscriminate disposal of used filter elements and arsenic sludge/arsenic solid wastes on the ground, rivers, ponds and low-lying areas are polluting/contaminating air, soil and sediment, surface and groundwater resources, aquatic organisms, and agricultural products. In other words, this toxic sludge/concentrated toxic waste reaches out every nook and corner of the environment of Bangladesh. In the context of Bangladesh's geology, hydrology, hydro geology, geochemistry, and socio-economic conditions, arsenic sludge management is very expensive and very difficult.
Do you really understand what kind of poisonous environment is going to have in Bangladesh and West Bengal of India due to indiscriminate disposal of arsenic sludge/solid wastes from thousands of SONO and other arsenic removal filters?
Misinterpretation of TCLP and Landfill in the Context of Bangladesh Environment:
We find your arsenic sludge disposal method is similar to other currently being practiced in Bangladesh. We think you have not completely understood the interpretation and practical use of the term TCLP because of lacking institutional training and work experience in dealing with toxic and hazardous material. Your arsenic disposal method is based on pseudo scientific theory which is threatening the entire humanity of the Bengal delta. You can find below what went wrong with your understanding of the entire method.
On May 17, 2007 we provided you and others with some information about TCLP. You have been misinterpreting your TCLP data either for promoting your SONO filters as the best filter or you are not at all aware of the interpretation and usage of the term properly.
We would like to inform you and others that if the TCLP test reveals the sludge sample to be below regulatory limit (USEPA for arsenic is less than 5 mg/l), then the sludge/solid waste is considered to be non-hazardous. In that case you have to dispose the sludge in a landfill or any other secured locations.
The information that we provided (Understanding TCLP) clearly states that "A TCLP analysis of a waste sample tells a generator whether or not the waste is capable of releasing up to 8 toxic metals and 32 toxic organics in an amount that exceeds the EPA regulatory limits when the waste is subjected to the kinds of chemicals and physicals conditions encountered in a landfill". This test is designed to simulate leaching that takes place in a sanitary landfill only. What this means is that when you conduct TCLP test on your arsenic sludge/arsenic wastes and the test meets the EPA regulatory limits, then you have to dispose the wastes in a sanitary landfill or in other similar conditions. If you do not dispose your arsenic concentrated sludge and used filter elements in a sanitary landfill, then the dumping of your sludge on the ground, rivers, ponds, and low lying areas would be considered illegal dumping of toxic arsenic wastes. You are dumping arsenic sludge in a different chemical and physical environment than a sanitary landfill from which arsenic will contaminate air, water, soil/sediments etc. You have wrongly equated the "open field" of Bangladesh with the US EPA-recommended sanitary "landfill" in USA, probably in the interest of your filter use. You have clearly misunderstood the term used for the dumping place. Bangladesh does not have sanitary landfills. With this misconception of the term, you have been providing the people of Bangladesh and scientific community around the world with wrong information about your SONO filter. Do you realize how much harm you have been promoting for the environment of this impoverished nation in the name providing arsenic-free potable water?
Arsenic Sono filter
The winner of a prestigious engineering prize is working hard to ensure that needy communities around the world benefit from his invention, which removes arsenic and other impurities from water drawn from tubewells. Abul Hussam, a chemistry professor at George Mason University in Virginia, has devoted most of the $1 million he was awarded as winner of the 2007 Grainger Challenge Prize to distributing his inexpensive water filtration system to the poor in countries such as his native Bangladesh, where between 77 million and 95 million people are drinking water contaminated with arsenic. The remainder of the prize money was donated to the university or set aside for more research.
Arsenic contamination is a serious problem in tubewells in Bangladesh, eastern India, Nepal and several other countries. Arsenic is poisonous and, even in low concentrations, can cause skin ailments, nerve damage, fatal cancers, organ failure and the loss of arms and legs, as well as death. Hussam first became involved professionally in working on the arsenic problem when his brother, a physician in Kushtia, Bangladesh, asked him to develop a technique for precise arsenic measurement. As part of his research at George Mason University, Hussam developed an electrochemical analyzer and utilized it to develop a measurement protocol. "The first sample we measured was our home tubewell and we found 160-190 parts per billion [ppb] -- 50 ppb is the limit -- arsenic. We then decided to develop a water filter," he said. Hussam found that the entire neighbourhood in which he grew up and 60 percent of Kushtia's 400,000 residents were drinking arsenic-contaminated water. While he and his siblings did not develop symptoms of arsenic poisoning, others in his community did.
The Grainger Challenge Prize was created by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) with support from the Grainger Foundation. NAE challenged the US engineering community to develop a water treatment system that would significantly lower the arsenic content in groundwater from tubewells in developing countries. The challenge stipulated that the winning system be low-cost, technically robust, reliable and maintainable; be socially acceptable and affordable; be manufacturable and serviceable in a developing country; and not degrade other water quality characteristics or create a toxic waste disposal hazard.
Hussam's Sono filter, as he calls it, was one of 75 entries. It was tested in a laboratory of the US Environmental Protection Agency and analysed by each of the 10 members of the prize selection committee, according to the committee's chairman, professor Charles O'Melia of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, who called Hussam's invention "innovative." The Sono filter works without electricity, using three stacked buckets. The top bucket is filled with coarse river sand and a composite iron matrix, which serves as the active arsenic removal component. The middle bucket contains coarse river sand and wood charcoal to remove organic impurities. The bottom bucket contains fine river sand and brick chips to remove fine particles and stabilize water flow. The Sono filter is manufactured in Bangladesh using local raw materials at a cost of $35-$40. It produces 20 liters of clean water per hour, requires little maintenance, and lasts a minimum of five years. It is also "green," in the sense that it does not produce any hazardous waste. (Source:Daily Star, july 12, 2007, USINFO, Washington)
Any EPA (USA) professional would approve such improper arsenic waste disposal method in Bangladesh
. We would like to inform everyone that the SONO and other arsenic removal filters and indiscriminate disposal of arsenic wastes from these filters on the open ground, in underground, rivers, ponds, lakes, khal, bill, doba, khad and other low lying areas are creating graveyards for the current and future generations.
The govt. of Bangladesh was misguided by the promoters of arsenic removal filters and some other scientists regarding the arsenic waste disposal method in Bangladesh and as a result they probably have accepted Dr. Hussam's improper disposal method. We do not think any EPA professional would approve such improper arsenic waste disposal method in Bangladesh and in other countries.
The geological, hydrological, hydrogeological and hydro-metereological as well as socio-economic conditions are not suitable for the construction and maintaining a modern sanitary landfill for properly disposing arsenic sludges from the arsenic removal filters and treatment units.
The over pumping of groundwater creates arsenic poisoning at the subsurface, and the removal and disposal of arsenic wastes causes numerous problems at the surface.
Dr. Hussam has a great difficulty in understanding and using the term TCLP and TCLP test data and as a result he has been advocating that the Sono filter does not generate toxic waste. We will thoroughly examine Dr. Hussam's misinterpretation and misconception of TCLP test data.
We will also examine his Sono filter's waste disposal method in Bangladesh. This is a very serious scientific issue and as a result his arsenic waste disposal method must be examined as soon as possible. We as experienced professionals in dealing with numerous contaminated projects are respectfully requesting the arsenic filter users not to dispose arsenic waste from Sono and other filters on the ground, in the rivers, lakes, ponds and other low lying areas as suggested by Dr. Hussam. Those users who have already disposed of arsenic sludge/wastes improperly, should collect the wastes and contain it in a secured location until permanent solutions are figured out. Those who have clean and good tubewell waters , should share the water with their neighbors.
The arsenic removal by filters is not a good solution/process in the context of the geological, hydrological, hydrogeological, hydrometreological and socio-economic conditions of Bangladesh, West Bengal, Nepal as well as Vietnam (Meer Husain et al. Wichita, Kansas, USA, July 2007).
Economic Feasibility of SONO Filter:
SONO filter does generate concentrated toxic arsenic solid wastes. This filter is inexpensive, because you are not disposing the sludge properly ignoring US EPA's regulations. The proper disposal of arsenic concentrated sludge/wastes/residues is very expensive. If you properly collect and dispose the sludge/wastes/residues and add the cost of collection, shipping and handling etc. by a trained professional then the cost of using SONO filter will be extremely high. The use of a filter is questionable if you cannot properly manage the arsenic wastes? Are you not paving the way for another environmental disaster? In developed countries household type of arsenic removal filtration systems are not encouraged, because the collection, shipping and handling of sludge and proper disposal of sludge would be very expensive. Moreover, improper disposal will create more problems as stated above.
. In Kushtia these systems are now being produced at the rate of about 200 per week, at a cost of about $40 each
Dr. Hussam was moved by the plight of millions of Bangladeshis poisoned by tube-well water laced with arsenic -- leading to serious skin conditions, tumours, breathing difficulties, cancer, and ultimately to agonizing death -- and made it his quest to find a solution. After experimenting with hundreds of prototypes, he finally found the right combination of sand, charcoal, brick, and cast-iron to filter out almost any trace of arsenic from well water. In Kushtia these systems are now being produced at the rate of about 200 per week, at a cost of about $40 each. Over 30,000 filtration systems have already been distributed throughout the country.
40 US Dollars about Tk. 3000 and additional expenses later - can poor afford?
The NGOs and companies distribute the filter but due to clogging, no device for back-washing and colouring of water, growth of pathogen within the filter and expensive to replace etc. people refuses to use them: Available arsenic removal technologies are neither cost effective for the poor nor easily operable and maintainable. For example devices based on sorptive techniques need periodic regeneration by washing as flocculate particles clog the filter media slowing down flow rate which makes those devices cumbersome to use After some days there may arise filter media which demands extra replacement cost.
The risk of harmful bacteria can grow and increase substantially within the filter, if it is not properly maintained. Another process is coagulation-flocculation-co-precipitation with chemicals that may leave harmful residual elements in dissolved state in water. If coagulated with alum and potassium permanganate, there is a chance of having residual aluminium, potassium etc. in treated water that may have toxic effects on human nervous system. DPHE and DANIDA have introduced this system. In Faridpur they have distributed two-bucket system, but no body uses it.
There are several expensive filters are available in the market, but nobody knows their effectiveness. None of the project has arsenic disposal programme. Agencies have failed to give the people arsenic free water, environmental conscious education.
No water-purification device is capable, by itself, of removing all of the toxics from drinking water. Many unscrupulous companies and salespeople sell water-purification equipment to cash in on people's fears about polluted water to make a quick money.
The versatility of the sand filter is reflected in the numerous design variations that have been developed to address many different climatic and development conditions. Nearly a dozen variants of the basic sand filter design are currently in use, and engineers and practitioners continue to create more. A simple sand filter in a clay pot for 20-litre water has been introduced to remove arsenic and other contaminants. Sand filters are not simply physical filters, as in the percolating filter the sand particles develop a microbial flora whose metabolism contributes to the effectiveness of the process
We have innovated clay potters of Mallikpur to produce simple filter (like popular "Surma Filter") with candle (sand, clay) that stops colio bacteria and reduces arsenic concentration.
But this project failed because the cannot afford 2 US dollar but how can you expect to spent 40 US dollars or more?
To identify "stratigraphic trap of arsenic free water" (if present) within contaminated aquifers within deltaic deposits is the cheapest and easy alternative
Left deep tube well 12000 feet by Swedish Aid through BRDB water contains 80 Microgram arsenic and saline, Right a Shallow arsenic free well drilled at Tambulkhana, Faridpur, May 2004 by this project.
To identify "stratigraphic trap of arsenic free water" (if present) within contaminated aquifers within deltaic deposits is the cheapest and easy alternative. Besides a simple, pragmatic arsenic mitigation project, is the "Sunlight Air Clay Pot Method," based on traditional wisdom and cultural festivals. "
We have recently launched a pilot project in Faridpur. The message and activities on environment consciousness education, using traditional method to purify water, rainwater harvesting, to identify arsenic free water (shallow aquifer) within contaminated area,arsenic and bacteria free water and cultural gatherings addressing the rural population were immense. The principal objectives of the project are to introduce environmental consciousness education, cost-effective, efficient, user friendly and appropriate method of water purification, arsenic free water for the improvement of public health and overall protection of the environment : Final Project Report.
This project is completely different from other Arsenic mitigation projects because villagers will produce clay pots, sand filters, microbial disposal etc. later distribute to other villagers and thus a rapid mitigation project can spread all over Bangladesh (Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Govt. of Bangladesh, 11June, 2000)." Since no one can earn enough money out of this project, donors and others are reluctant to finance it.
The key element of BAMWSP (Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply, LGRD Ministry) policy is "consumers-pays principles", in other words villagers have to pay it. Our experiences show that most of the rural population are very poor and can hardly afford 1 US dollar for an additional expense.Even after several years mitigation activities by the NGOs or Government are almost absent. Government's inaction putting huge number of people at risk. Our heart goes out to Sumon, a fourteen year old boy who lost one of his legs at such a tender age due to drinking arsenic poisoned water. Our reporter, who has recently visited a small village in Noakhali, says that Sumon is not alone, there are hundreds of others awaiting a similar fate. In fact, estimates show that Bangladeshis exposed to high levels of arsenic vary from a low of 2835 million to as high as 77 million, more than half the country's population. The World Health Organisation describes the arsenic contamination of ground water as "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history." But we fail to understand why a comprehensive mitigation programme has not been achieved since almost all concerned have admitted that it is a serious threat to human lives (Editorial, The Daily Star, 22 June, 2003).
Washington Post Report:
On Friday, February 2, 2007; Mr. Rick Weiss of Washington Post Staff Writer in the article entitled "GMU Teacher's Ingenuity Nets $1 Million Prize" wrote that Dr. Hussam said "Each filter contains 20 pounds of porous iron, which forms a strong chemical bond with arsenic and is key to the system's success. Even if the resulting, coffee-ground-like substance is eventually dumped on the ground, he said, the arsenic will not be released as long as there is oxygen around." Again, we would like to inform you that your arsenic wastes dumping method is not based on sound scientific data. In order to properly understand the dangers of your arsenic wastes dumping method in Bangladesh, you have to have a sound knowledge about hydro-meteorology, hydrology, hydro geology, geochemistry and geology of the disposal sites as well as adjoining sites in Bangladesh. Lack of that interdisciplinary knowledge has dared you to misguide the people of Bangladesh and scientific community around the world for practicing illegal disposal method.
Science and Environment on Line: Down To Earth Report:
On May 8, 2007 Science and Environment on Line: Down to Earth reported your statement that "For arsenic disposal, also called residue management, there are standard methods to detect leaching. In other words, the method helps to find out how much arsenic gets into the environment if the filter is disposed somewhere, says Hussam. There is an Environmental Protection Agency (epa) process called the TALP (total available leaching protocol) and there is the European protocol. "The amount that is leached is 16 parts per billion (ppb), which is very small. The EPA limit is 5,000 ppb," Hussam adds. Safe disposal:
Besides, he says that people are informed that if they have to dispose the filters, they should do it in the open and not bury it because in a reducing environment (underground), there could be more leaching. It has gone through two environmental technology verification projects and both of them found that the material is not categorized as solid toxic waste, says Hussam." From the above mentioned report, it appears that you understand the dangers of dumping of concentrated arsenic waste and used filter elements into underground, but you are not knowledgeable at all to understand the dangers for dumping on the ground, ponds, rivers and other low lying areas.
News From Bangladesh-Science & Technology Section Report:
On May 21, 2007 Tabinda Naeem of Voice of America in the article "Water Filter Wins Developer Engineering Prize" wrote that you said "Then came along the Grainger Challenge," he says. "The American engineering community challenged the engineering community in this country as well as the scientists in this country to devise a filtration system that is cheap, basically inexpensive, that will last longer, and it will work without electricity. And also the filtration system should be green, green in the sense that it will not produce any hazardous waste, solid waste."
Once again, we would like to inform you that SONO filter does generate toxic and hazardous wastes if the sludge and waste are disposed on the ground, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams etc. other than a sanitary landfill. Your media statements have provided people and the scientific community around the world with false information.
Development and Deployment of Arsenic Filter for Groundwater (Narrative AH1/9/26/2005):
In this article, section 6.Residue Management you stated that: "Leaching of spent sand, CIM, charcoal, and brickette by TCLP (EPA procedure) and TALP (EU procedure) with groundwater at pH 4, pH 7 and in Bangladesh rain water (pH=5) shows less than 16 ppb(ICP data) arsenic, which is 300 times less than EPA limit. The waste sand has some arsenic in the oxidized form and firmly bound with insoluble iron. This is naturally occurring compound in the earths crust. It is like disposing soil on soil. Spent material can be disposed in the open to maintain oxidizing condition."
We find the above information very misleading and not based on sound scientific information. We think you are not knowledgeable about soil chemistry and geochemistry. You are actually telling people for dumping arsenic contaminated sand and spent materials on uncontaminated soil. In other words, your arsenic wastes disposal method will contaminate air, soil and sediments, surface and groundwater resources, aquatic organisms/fish, agricultural resources, ecosystem and environment of Bangladesh and beyond.
Violation of the National Academy of Engineering(NAE)/Grainger Challenge Prize,2007, Award Criteria:
The Technical Criteria and The technical Performance section clearly revealed that "The principal metrics of performance which will be used by the judges are (1) technical performance, that is, the ability of the system to provide sufficient quantities of water at 50 µg/L or less of total As, over an extended period of time, (2) the ability to be able to provide water at an affordable cost, considering initial capital and maintenance costs, (3) the ability to be able to collect and dispose of spent residues containing As in a safe and cost effective manner, and (4) that the system be user friendly, convenient to use, easy to maintain and is sustainable over many years."
We would like to inform you that your arsenic sludge/concentrated arsenic wastes/residues disposal method does not meet the NAE's criteria #3 at all. You are not collecting and disposing arsenic wastes/residues in a safe and cost effective manner, rather your inappropriate disposal method is contaminating air, soil and sediments, surface and groundwater resources, etc. thus threatening the entire civilization of Bengal delta. We would like to know the details of the justifications of their acceptance and approval of your arsenic waste disposal method from you and other professional organizations (viz. NAE and ETVAM) that accepted and approved your disposal method of arsenic sludge/arsenic wastes in Bangladesh. We would also like to inform you that your disposal method in Bangladesh would be considered illegal dumping of toxic wastes in USA. Severe punishment, penalties and fines are associated with illegal dumping of toxic wastes. In Bangladesh there is no such law developed yet to protect the health and safety of peoples, properties and the environment from man- made contaminations caused by illegal dumping of toxic wastes. We all understand your good motive and intention for providing good water to the people of Bangladesh by arsenic removal filters, but you have to understand that as a promoter of SONO arsenic removal filter you are fully liable for any damage to the health and safety of people, properties and the environment caused by arsenic wastes generated by arsenic removal filters and treatment units.
Your Conscientiousness on Science and Ethics Issue:
The groundwater arsenic poisoning is a life and death problem of more than 230 million people of Bengal Basin. We would like to inform you that in order to find a sustainable solution to the arsenic disaster in Bangladesh and West Bengal of India, we have to find the source(s) and cause(s) of the of the problem based on sound geological, hydrological, hydro-geological and geochemical data and evidences. If you do not know the source and cause of the problem, then how can you develop and implement a sustainable solution to the problem?
As pointed above, you have been in your articles and lectures etc. advising the people of Bangladesh and the international scientific community that the groundwater arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh is a natural disaster, that the poisoning in groundwater has been present for long time, but we could not find any data and evidence that support your theory. We want to know from you what hydrological, hydro-geological and geochemical data you have to support your theory. You must stop providing misleading information to the people of Bangladesh and the international scientific community, since you do not have any reliable data and the expertise needed. Where is your standard of ethics in scientific investigation?
On behalf of the humanity, we urge you and other promoters of arsenic removal filters to abandon the arsenic removal filters in Bangladesh and West Bengal of India immediately. We also urge the govt. of Bangladesh and West Bengal of India and the international community to take necessary steps to protect and save the people of Bangladesh and West Bengal of India from the World's largest man-made arsenic disaster.
1.Meer Husain,P.G. Professional Geologist Kansas Dept. of Health & Environment And Adjunct Faculty Cowley County Community College Wichita, Kansas, USA. E Mail : email@example.com;
2.Miah M. Adel, Ph.D. Professor, Physics & Interdisciplinary Sciences University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, USA.
3.Mahbub Alam, Ph.D. Professor, Extension Irrigation Specialist Biological and Agricultural Engineering Kansas State University Southwest Research and Extension Center Garden City, Kansas, USA.
Arsenic Waste Disposal-A Lesson from a US Contaminated siteThe attached article will help us in understanding the impact of improper disposal of arsenic wastes on the open ground, ponds, rivers, streams, khal, bill, doba, khad and other low lying areas from the arsenic removal filters, arsenic removal treatment plants, and agricultural irrigation with arsenic contaminated groundwater on the air quality, soil and sediments, aquatic organisms, surface and groundwater resources, eco-system and the environment of Bangladesh and West Bengal of India.
This information will also help us in determining how to protect the people of Bangladesh and West Bengal of India from the World's Largest Man-made Arsenic Disater. In addition, this information will help us protect and maintain a healthy and liveable environment for our future generations to come. We strongly believe that we should learn first from well known contaminated and remedial sites case studies and experts around the world before implementing any clean water supply project such as household arsenic removal filtration systems in Bangladesh and West Bengal of India. In order to find a sustainable solution to the arsenic disaster in Bangladesh and West Bengal of India, we have to find a correct source and cause of the arsenic poisoning. The people and the govt. of Bangladesh and West Bengal of India should not be mislead by incorrect data/theories and improper judgements regarding the sustainable solution to the arsenic disaster in Bangladesh and West Bengal of India and failure to determine the right solutions to the problem will cause more harm than good to these nations.
Respectfully, Meer Husain, P.G., Kansas Dept. of Health & Environment.Kansas, USA.
So Far All Filters Failed to Address Arsenic Mitigation
I have seen now a few NGOs trying to set Sono Filter in Faridpur and Kustia. All filters from local and abroad so far failed to supply arsenic free water. At the begining it works well, But where to dispose arsenic sludge?
Faridpur Water Supply - Newly Constructed by Dutch Aid - disposes Arsenic Sludge to River Kumar
Water supplies of all contaminated areas of Bangladesh dispose of highly toxic arsenic sludge to rivers or nearby pond. The old units also dispose of arsenic sludge to nearby waterways contaminating surrounding areas. This possibly made Faridpur Sadar as one of the worst affected areas of Bangladesh. Average arsenic concentration in Faridpur is about 0.300 mg/l (300 times higher than WHO standard). Also highly educated laboratories of Bangladesh dispose of toxic chemicals, biological contaminated wastes, and arsenic water disposes into cities sewage system. How can you expect a disposal programme in rural areas?
Environmental Technology Verification -
In 2000, the Governments of Canada and Bangladesh established a bilateral development assistance project known as the Environmental Technology Verification – Arsenic Mitigation (ETV-AM) Project to help Bangladesh develop and implement a scientifically defensible, third party method for validating the proponents' performance claims for arsenic removal technologies.
During the ETV-AM Project, performance verification by the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) of arsenic removal technologies prior to its sale in Bangladesh was made a legal requirement. Bangladesh Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (BCSIR) was designated by GoB as the verification authority for arsenic removal technologies (ARTs). Five arsenic removal technologies were tested in five hydrogeologically different regions of Bangladesh and four technologies (Read F household unit, Sono 45-25, Alcan household unit, SIDKO community unit) were provisionally certified for sale in Bangladesh. The ETV-AM Verification Report summarizes the findings and observations from the field testing and verification of five (5) arsenic removal technologies.
SIDKO- Filter Harbauer, a German-based Company
Oct 18 1999: Sidko to market plants to remove arsenic: Sidko Ltd, a private local organisation in the country, is going to market shallow groundwater arsenic removal plants to mitigate arsenic problem. The organisation with the technical support from Harbauer, a German-based water treatment technology, has already stated its operation at Jafarnagar of Jessore, one of the worst arsenic-affected areas in the country, on September 30 1999.
Sidko :The Provisionally Verified Arsenic Removal Technologies
The Provisional Verification Certificate
Issued by BCSIR* to a Proponent that passes field testing and verification Certifies that a specific technology has been field tested under the ETV-AM Program, and its performance is verified.
States that technology must be deployed under the terms and conditions stated in the Condition for Deployment.
The conditions for Deployment are provided on the back of the Certificate itself. *BCSIR Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is the government appointed Verification Entity. ETV-AM has a mandate to build capacity in Bangladesh, and is assisted by Dhaka-based expert advisors.
: The technologies that have been field-tested re- moved arsenic by either adsorption, or by co adsorption and co-precipitation, or by ionexchange processes. The field data showed that all technologies had a limited capacity for adsorption of arsenic, and the volume of arsenic-safe water, i.e. As =50 µg/L, which these technologies can produce depended on influent water-quality parameters.
For example, Alcan's household unit capacity for production of arsenic-safe water was reduced by a factor of 0.66 when arsenic concentrations in groundwater was increased from 335 µg/L to about 570 µg/L and by a factor of 3.5 when phosphate concentration was increased from about to 2.2 µg/L to about 9.8 µg/L
All ARTs could produce ar-senic-safe water; however, most did not meet the proponent performance claim, perhaps the proponents were too ambitious in their choice of ranges of water-quality parameters and did not want to impose any restrictions on their technologies (Ontarion Centre for Environmental Technology Verification, 2070 Hadwen Road, Unit 201A, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada).
The main cause of non-use was improper maintenance leading to poor water quality or filter failure. A significant number of functional filters had experienced arsenic breakthrough; however, users were unaware of this due to a lack of monitoring. The READ-F filters were not very acceptable to owners because of deficiencies in aesthetic water quality and user-friendliness (M.A. Kabir, R. Johnston (firstname.lastname@example.org) ). .
EARTH Foundation's arsenic filter hoax
Khan Mohammad Khalid Hossain, who was imprisoned for more than two years in a fraud case and is accused in several other cases, is the chairman and executive director of the foundation.
The foundation also plans to employ more 40,000 people across the country and claims to have recruited 6,000 people already. However, questions have been raised as to how the NGO has managed the fund for so many projects in such a short time. Its top officials and policymakers seemingly have no answers. There have already been allegations that the chairman of the foundation, Khan Mohammad Khalid Hossain, who was once convicted of fraud and who has been implicated in 19 other civil and criminalcases, plans to use the NGO to swindle poor farmers (New Age, November 7, 2007).
‘The filter has been developed by using the local technology of Bangladesh. A 15-litre reserve tank is on the top, an arsenic purification cartridge is in the middle and a tank to hold arsenic-free water is below the filter,’ said Dulaly. ‘The filtration cartridge for removing arsenic from tube-well water has a reasonably fast rate of outflow and is cost-effective,’ Dulaly told the meeting.
The upper part of the filter is red in colour and the lower part is green. There are five layers in the middle of the cartridge and the layers work with the help of three mechanisms. A 0.2 micron filtering net is available at the bottom from where safe water can be collected. The water purification rate of the Earth Filter is faster than any other arsenic filters available in Bangladesh, according to the inventor. Arsenic, iron, temperature, pH and conductivity of the tube-well water of a few districts have been tested in the laboratory. The filtered water is crystal clear and free from bacteria. The concentration of arsenic, iron, temperature, pH and conductivity of filtered water met the WHO’s and Bangladesh’s standard. ‘The salient feature of this filter is to make water arsenic-free and bacteria-free within a short time.’ said Md Abdul Jalil. ‘The price of the filter has been fixed at Tk 1,975 and it can be purchased in instalments.’
The EARTH Foundation has recently advertised in newspapers for arsenic filters it claimed to have invented, seeking invitation for tenders for supplying five lakh filters without taking necessary approval of the authorities concerned for their marketing. In the advertisement published on September 10, the Effective Assistance and Rehabilitation for Tormented Humanity (EARTH) Foundation claimed that one of its officials has invented a technology to free water of arsenic.
The advertisement showed images of certificates of Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR, B), National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine (NIPSOM), Atomic Energy Centre, and Exonics Technology Centre. These organisations, however, said they did not certify the filter of the EARTH Foundation and that none can sell or advertise in the media any such technology linked to public health for marketing or publicity without the BCSIR approval.
The EARTH Foundation, a non-profit organisation registered under the Society Act 1960 of the Joint Stock Company, started its journey in September 2006. It has so far initiated a number of projects of clinics, training institutes, family planning, micro-credit, consumer's credit scheme, research and publications and others across the country involving hundreds of crores of taka. Khan Mohammad Khalid Hossain, who was imprisoned for more than two years in a fraud case and is accused in several other cases, is the chairman and executive director of the foundation. According to publications of the foundation, its sources of fund are expatriate Bangladeshis, banks, local donors and sales of contraceptive products it has purchased for around Tk 200 crore.
BCSIR Chairman Dr Choudhury Mahmood Hasan said the EARTH Foundation only supplied water samples to the BCSIR for tests claiming that the water was filtered using its technology. "We asked the EARTH Foundation to supply the filter too. It requires at least three to four months to test such filters as we need to use the filter for arsenic contaminated water from different areas to make sure that it filters arsenic in water from anywhere in the country," Mahmood said. The EARTH Foundation did not follow the BCSIR instructions, he added.
Water matrix of different places are different and a filter invented in the USA or Europe may not be applicable in Bangladesh, the BCSIR chairman explained. The BCSIR has a committee to extend technological verification support under the Arsenic Mitigation Programme and this committee is the sole authority to certify any such filter, he said. Michael T Behan, general counsel of ICDDR, B, said the institute never tested or certified the EARTH Foundation filter (Daily Star, October 28, 2007).
So far all these imported filters have failed to address arsenic mitigation. Money is spent for the benefit of the producers of the filter. All such filters are not used in Bangladesh.
Priority of Our Project in Faridpur this lowercast Hindus
We have made available arsenic free water for:
Village Madha Para, Domkaron Aubergine Village- Betbaria Madha Para, Domkaron and many scatter places of remote Faridpur District.
I saw the headman's dark-skinned daughter once
Walking through brakes of blossomed cane, and heard
The restless ceaseless rustling of the flowers.
Such hues she has as kernels of the grain
Shaken from nodding tips in the paddy fields,
The parrot's perch Put her in durba grass,
Her shade would mingle with its shadow dark
To dark; or lay her sleeping couch
Of clouds, you'd not distinguish her light form
Through cows are brindled and of many hues
The colour of their milk's the same.
I wander through the world, but everywhere
I see one mother, many sons
Jasim Uddin, Gipsy Wharf
Balck is the pupil of my eye,
black the ink with which I write
Black is Birth, and death is Black
Black is universal Night.
Jasim Uddin, The Field of the Embroidered Quilt
Government projects are targeted to influential and rich people. We found at Krisnanagar Union many low cast people are left alone. The family Ramesh Barai, Palas Barai, Bikas Bari and manju Rani Barai are serious arsenic patient. They were driking water which contain arsenic 1200 µg/l, whereas 10µg/l is WHO standard. We gave them filter and located an arsenic free well.
Family Barai- whole body is affected by arsenic poisoning
This is our failure that we could not save the life of Mattber of Purbogangabarti, Faridpur!We mourn for the death of Matbaer at Prbogangabarti Village (10 members of the family died from arsenic poisoning through drinking water. They were drinking water which contain 1100 µg/l arsenic for years
More deaths will be followed. Those who were drnking water containing arsenic for years more than 500 µg/l., are now at critical postion. We could not offer help to many, as our private initiative has its limit.
A swan flies away and leaves a shadow behind,
Man returns to dust, what affection does he find?
Shakti Shell daughter of Kani Shell, barber. But the whole family is seriously sick and Kanai cannot work any more and he can die any moment.
After Shakti became sick, she has to leave her school. Dhaka Community Hospital could not help her. Shakiti's mother, all of a sudden, let Shakti get married. Soon it was discovered that her husband was a mad man. Now Shakti wants to leave Bangladesh and work outside. Can any person help her? Her Address: Shakti Shell, Dakhin Tepakhola, PO Faridpur, Bangladesh.
At Dhakin Tepakhola, Faridpur, within a cluster of houses arsenic concentration as high as 1.76 mg/1 (more than 30 times than Bangladesh standard). 10 tube wells still in use were tested for arsenic concentration. The wells varied from 1.6 to 0.5 mg/1 arsenic concentrations. Seven deaths have been reported as follows: Shahidul Islam, Usha Rani Sudhor, Sirin Begum, Halima Khatun, Amina Khatun, Sukur Jahn, Mumta Begum.
The World Bank distributes the money through Government's favoured organisations. It is possible that both the World Bank and the organisations are corrupt. It is likely that main shares of the money goes abroad, otherwise why a unsuccesful organisation gets money again and again!
Why not look for Cheapest and Available Methods - Without Foreign Aid
Arsenic Mitigation in India
In rural West Bengal, India, life is tenuous for millions of people. Desperate poverty, hunger, and disease are a daily reality. To make matters worse, their water is killing them. With every drink of water and every meal they eat, hundreds of thousands of people are being slowly poisoned by the very water they need to survive.
Residents in eight of this region’s 19 districts are drinking and cooking with groundwater contaminated with naturally occurring, highly toxic arsenic. Tasteless and colorless, the arsenic has slowly seeped into their water sources and then into their bodies. The result: chronic arsenic poisoning of hundreds of thousands of West Bengalis, with many more at risk. Thankfully, village-by-village, simple, locally developed solutions are making a change for the better. These solutions are providing much more than safe water. They are empowering communities and contributing to local economies by creating new business and job
Partnering for simple, locally developed sustainable solutions
Water For People began working in India in 1996. Its initial effort was a small pilot program designed to help eliminate the health threats of arsenic in rural village water supplies. Soon Water For People partnered with Bengal Engineering & Science University to develop a local, sustainable solution. After pursuing a number of options, the university developed a simple arsenic-removal filter for use at community wellheads, incorporating activated alumina.Content
The wellhead unit consists of a 12-inch diameter, seven-foot, two-inch-tall stainless steel column. Water flows through a 51-inch layer of activated alumina and then through an eight-inch layer of gravel. Every eight to 12 months the filter media is regenerated and the waste safely contained. One wellhead unit can serve up to 300 families and is expected to last for 10 to 15 years, with little maintenance required.
The filter incorporates a simple, highly effective technology, is locally manufactured, easy to operate (no electricity required), easy to maintain, and relatively inexpensive—approximately $2,000 for each wellhead unit. Most important, the technology is sustainable, offering effective protection for years to come. Working with the local villages, water committees were formed to help implement the installations and encourage ongoing local input and control. To date, Water For People has helped finance the installation of 110 of these units providing safe, arsenic-free water for more than 33,000 people in multiple villages across West Bengal. Healthy results (Water and Wastewater Blog, March 3, 2008).
Chanpainawabganj district civil surgeon's office has to date identified 845 of its population suffering from arsenic poisoning. The residents of Chanpainawabganj town itself being the most vulnerable in the district, civil surgeon Md Shah Abdul Ahad told bdnews24.com.
Chapai Nawabganj is a district on the northwestern border of Bangladesh. It is famous for mango, and other crops like paddy, sugarcane and wheat. Most of the people depend for their daily bread on farming. However, a good number of people are well educated and well of here. There are four rivers in Chapainawabganj. They are Padma, Pagla, Mahananda and Punarbhaba. Chapinawabganj is also a historical place. At past, its name was ''Goad'', the capital of old Bengal. The Sona Masjid is the best example of that. Side by side, there is also a bridge over the Mahananda. And after all, Chapainawabganj is a beautiful district to look at. Its natural scenery in Barendra area and other parts are really exception.
Modeling Groundwater Flow for the Delineation of Wellhead Protection Area around
A BGS survey of Chapai Nawabganj in early 1997
Impacts of arsenic contamination in groundwater: case study of some villages in Bangladesh
"A total of 845 persons have been identified so far as arsenicosis patients and they are being provided with medical treatment, as necessary," the civil surgeon said. "The presence of arsenic above the safety threshold has been ascertained in the water pumped out of the hand tubewells of 115 localities out of the total 128 municipal units."
Water levels of groundwater aquifers are falling fast, which is causing the concentration of arsenic to intensify. Though the civil surgeon's office has no statistics on the deaths due to arsenic posioning, eight members of a single family were reported by locals to have died of arsenicosis in Uparajarampur.
Both legs amputated due to advanced arsenic poisoning.
Relative Kalu Mandal (70) told bdnews24.com: "Eight in our family died over the past few years from arsenic poisoning. I've been suffering from the disease for the last 20 years." Kariman (50), a resident of Paramanikpara claimed most of the 35 families in their locality have been affected by various arsenic-related ailments, including herself.
Devashish Dey, of Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh, said one Durgapur resident needed to have both legs amputated due to advanced arsenic poisoning.
There still is no alternative for them"People in the area have been drinking arsenic contaminated water for a long time, as there still is no alternative for them," Dey said.
The programme has failed
Executive engineer of the district public health and engineering (DPHE) department, Md Saifur Rahman said arsenic has been found in varying levels in the groundwater of the district—38 percent of tubewells were found affected in the Sadar upazila, 17 percent in Shibganj, three percent in Nachol and in Bholahat. "In the municipal area alone, a massive 63 percent of the tubewells have been found affected, that is, with water containing arsenic at harmful levels," he said.
On the causes of such large-scale groundwater contamination, engineer Saifur said: "It's been caused due to excessive withdrawal of groundwater for many years. We have to switch to using surface water more to avoid further disaster." Engineer Nazrul Islam, of Chanpainawabganj municipal water supply division, said: "After testing water samples of 20 deep tubewells sunk under an arsenic mitigation project, 14 were found to be highly contaminated with arsenic."
With a view to supplying arsenic free water in the municipal area, the 'Bangladesh Water Supply Programme' was designed to provide potable water in Chapainnawabganj town. "But the programme has failed to take off as ECNEC is not giving it the green signal," Nazrul said.
Admitting the dearth of drinkable water in the town, mayor Ataur Rahman told bdnews24.com: "Though fifty odd surveys and studies have so far been carried out by many government and non-government organisations, including World Bank, none resulted in any effective measures to date." "I have approached different donors from different countries for help in this regard, but to no avail," said the mayor. DPHE boss Saifur Rahman said: "The DPHE is supplying 400 tubewells for the supply of safe water in the Sadar and Shibganj upazilas. UNICEF and the government will jointly sink another 800 tubewells in Nachol, Gomastapur and Bholahat upazilas." "The World Bank is expected to fund the installation of two pumps to supply Chanpainawabganj town with safe water, spending around one crore taka." But the engineer could not say when the townspeople would be ensured a safe water supply (Independent, July 12, 2008).
There is no silver bullet solution to arsenic contamination in Bangladesh. As the local stakeholders have yes sir mentality, nothing innovative has come out to solve or partially solve arsenic prbleme - as poor continues to drinking arsenic contaminated water. When in their body symtoms of arsenic poisoning occurs, it is too late, besides where to get arsenic free water?
The use of isotopes for characterizing submarine groundwater discharge was the subject of a CRPthat was completed in 2005. Field studies were conducted in Brazil, Italy and Mauritius, which demonstrated the role of isotopes in identifying and quantifying groundwater discharge in coastal areas as well as its impact on coastal zone pollution.
The results will form the basis of technical cooperation or interagency projects on coastal zone management.
As part of its Analytical Quality Control and Services, the Agency made available a number of isotope reference materials for use in hydrological, biological, ecological and agricultural studies.
Annual requests for reference materials increased from 450 units to 820 units in 2005, and were supplied to 250 laboratories in Member States.Communication and public outreach were significant areas of focus for the Agency’s water resources programme in 2005.
Bangladesh, is one village where high arsenic concentrations have been detected . The Agency and its counterpart, the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, together with the World Bank conducted an isotope investigation of groundwater in this village in March 2005.
The results of this study, which used stable oxygen and hydrogen isotopes and tritium, identified an arsenic-free aquifer in the eastern part of the village with a source of recharge different from the arsenic contaminated aquifer in the western part of the village.
These results led to a fresh review of the geological and hydrological data, which then were re-interpreted, resulting in the discovery of two aquifers with little groundwater flow between them. Thus, the eastern aquifer could be used to supply arsenic-free water to Chapai Nawabganj. This will eliminate the need for a separate water treatment plant, thereby saving millions of dollars needed to build and run the plant.
Arsenic contaminated underground water is one such severe problem which the government has failed to manage properly.
While problems of people living in the capital are well focused, people in the rural areas are hardly given any attention. The lack of safe water is one such problem that millions of people living outside the major cities are faces with even though, the country has very easy sources for natural water. Faulty policymaking, lack of awareness, lack of implementation of existing laws, a tendency of blindly following the prescription of donor agencies have led to the misuse and destruction of natural water. According to studies carried out by several government and non-government agencies, over dependence on the underground water level has resulted in the table declining at an alarming rate as well as polluting the underground water sources .
Arsenic contaminated underground water is one such severe problem which the government has failed to manage properly. Five years after the approval of National Policy for Arsenic Mitigation and Implementation Plan, two lakh people still face the threat of cancer annually due to drinking of arsenic contaminated water in Bangladesh, says a report of World Health Organisation (WHO). The national policy has set the target of providing arsenic-free water by 2010 in worst affected communities although millions of people are still drinking arsenic contaminated water, which is causing cancer of skin, lung and bladder as well as low birth weight and many other physical and neurological ailments.
Recent studies show that arsenic contaminated groundwater used for irrigation can contaminate the rice stalks, which is used for feeding animals. Thus arsenic can also enter into the food chain. Moreover, arsenic contaminated water decreases the rate of harvest. A detailed research on the nature of arsenic contamination and its impact on the public health needs to be done immediately.
Over two lakh people face cancer threat states a WHO report.
Even now, the groundwater of 270 upazilas of the country is severely contaminated by arsenic. According to DPHE 80 to 100 per cent tubewells at 8540 villages are arsenic contaminated. In Bangladesh the acceptable level of arsenic in drinking water has been set by the government at 50 parts per billion (PPB), while the WHO approved standard is 10 PPB. However, in many areas of the country the arsenic level is upto 500 says a DPHE report.
"Although the UN endorsed national arsenic mitigation policy was approved by the government, over 85 million people from different classes across the country are at the risk of arsenic," says Profesor Quazi Quamruzzaman, who has been championing the issue since the identification of an arsenic patient in the country in 1980s, "But so far no holistic measure has been taken in the light of the policy." National Arsenic and Mitigation and Implementation Plan recommends some specific short term and long term action plans to mitigate the problem. It has recommended focusing on the use of the surface water sources such as river water and rainwater instead of depending on the groundwater. However the concerned agency, DPHE, has done little as far as implementing these plans. Except marking red paint on the arsenic contaminated tubewells, nothing has been initiated so far. Rather, violating the recommendations of the national policy, the government agency has been taking some short-term solutions, which may cause more harm than good.
According to a DPHE high official source, the government agency has come up with new technologies like tara pump and deep tara pump for abstracting water from even deeper aquifers. Moreover, it has proposed to the government to install additional two lakh 75 thousand tubewells to meet the national policy of providing safe water for all by the year 2011.
Geo-hydrologists on the other hand are claiming the programme a complete violation of National Arsenic Mitigation and Implementation Plan. Seasoned geologist of the country M Abdullah, who was one of the active members of formulating the national policy says, "Going to deeper aquifer as the quick solution to the problem can never mitigate it. It will rather lead the crisis to a point where we have nothing to do. It's true that arsenic is frequent in the upper water table. As a quick solution the government agency is initiating plan to use deeper aquifer. Doing it arsenic can easily defuse to the deeper aquifer through leaching. Then the deeper aquifer will also be arsenic-contaminated. Moreover, because of so much dependence on the underground for irrigation, safe water and other reasons the water table is declining at an alarming rate"
"We have more than 80 thousand miles of river across the country. Moreover, the annual rainfall in the country is above 2000 millimetres. If these natural water sources are properly managed we don't need to use underground water sources," he adds (Daily Star, Nov 13, 2009).
Not surprisingly, officials of DPHE are arguing that the agency cannot do the survey annually due to manpower crisis and that private users do not approach them for testing before installing tubewells. "We have to do something to implement the ‘safe water for all’ programme by the year 2011. In the present circumstances we don't see any other options apart from installing tubewells since people don't like to use alternative safe water sources such as upgraded versions of ring well, rain water harvesting and pond sand filter," says a high official of DPHE.
The experts, on the other hand, think that such programmes have been initiated by DPHE to make illegal money by its officials who are going against the interest of the nation. According to health experts many countries in the world have faced similar problems, but they managed to mitigate it by improving water management programmes. They urge the government to take the arsenic issue more seriously considering the possible public health disaster in the Bangladesh it may entail. The National Policy for Arsenic Mitigation and Implementation Plan was approved by the government in 2004. It was after seven years of continuous lobbying, followed by national and international conferences, hundreds of publications in the print media plus extensive television and radio coverage, that government and international agencies started to respond to this massive human health problem. The national policy has set the target of providing arsenic free water by 2010 in the worst affected communities. It would be wise for the government to stick to it as thousands of lives are at risk.
UNICEF has come out with some dismal findings with regard to Bangladesh on the occasion of a high-level meeting of what is named New Global Partnership, Sanitation and Water for All that began in Washington on Saturday, according to an agency report published in Sunday’s New Age. Although there is some improvement in sanitation and the practice of open defecation shows a reduction, safe drinking water remains elusive and still two crore people have to quench their thirst by drinking arsenic-contaminated water.Content
Arsenic in drinking water is not a problem peculiar to Bangladesh (70 countries are affected) but as a poor country our capability to fight the menace is limited. In a past survey it was reported that 50 crore people in the subcontinent are affected by arsenic contamination. Sometime ago a government source disclosed that 30 million people are exposed to arsenicosis and 50,000 are already afflicted. According to WHO standard, the level of arsenic in drinking water should not exceed 01 mg per litre. As arsenic in human body acts slowly, its damage may not be known immediately but after nearly two decades the full dimension of this menace unfolds. As the soil is having arsenic concentration, the fear is that the food chain may also get contaminated. Preliminary studies show that food crops have indeed been contaminated, although the edible part of the plant may still be safe.
Arsenic was suddenly detected in groundwater in some areas of the country in the late 1980s, the time when, ironically, we were indulging ourselves the woolly self-satisfaction that, thanks to near-universalisation of the use of tube-well, the problem of availability of potable water had been solved and incidence of waterborne diseases would be vastly reduced.
The successive governments failed to respond to the crisis with the promptitude the situation had called for. But we cannot blame these governments entirely considering that there is no straight solution. The foremost task is to isolate all the tube-wells delivering arsenic-contaminated water in all the affected districts of the country. This seems to have been done but whether the survey and monitoring were thorough remains a question. There is very little technical facility for a suspecting householder to get his water tested and he has to wait for official intervention. No public education programme has been undertaken in the matter. Creation of awareness has no meaning if people in the affected areas are unable to take any initiative. As the problem admits of no clear-cut solution, the answer will lie in shutting out the sources of contaminated water, looking for alternatives like rain water harvesting, increasing dependence on surface water, or trying the purifying methods as available. If the different filters that have been devised are working they should be promoted.
Unless positive steps are taken to contain the menace it will in course of time overwhelm our health service. Arsenic is a ticking timebomb (Source: New Age, April 26, 2010).
Feb 2010: Over 85 million people at risk of arsenic related ailments
Lack of proper water management system has put the country's at least 85 million people at risk of arsenic-related ailments, experts said yesterday at a discussion on safe water.Content
They urged the government to implement the national arsenic mitigation policy and action plan to reduce the risk of arsenic. For mitigating the crisis, they stressed the need for 'sustainable and safe' use of water.
Dhaka Community Hospital (DCH) organised the discussion at its auditorium with Prof Mahmuder Rahman, chairman, Governing Body of Dhaka Community Medical College (DCMC), in the chair. Prof Richard Wilson of Harvard University, USA, chairman DCH Trust Prof Quazi Quamruzzaman, former director general of Water Resources Planning Organisation Mohammad Inamul Haque and principal of DCMC Prof Abdul Wadud Khan, took part in discussion on the topic. Wilson, first international scientist who voiced concern on arsenic contamination in country's groundwater a decade ago, emphasised on sustainability and safety of water use. "People can use water from any source but have to consider its safety and sustainability," he said. Describing different aspects of the Wilson Arsenic Mitigation Project run by DCH, Wilson also said that education on arsenic toxicity and arsenic contaminated water were important to the villagers to combat the arsenic.
Painting a gloomy picture of arsenic mitigation programmes in the country, Quamruzzaman said, so far the country has received US $ 8 billon to combat arsenic, but little impact has so far been noticed. Quoting WHO figure, he said, two lakh people suffer from cancer due to arsenic in water. "A total of 62 districts, out of 64, are affected with arsenic, of which, four per thousand people are at risk."
Referring to earlier study at Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Pabna, Narayanganj and Jessore, Quamruzzaman said, since 1996 around 20 per cent of arsenic-hit people died in about one decade. Of them, 31 out of 177 affected people died in Meherpur, 41 out of 200 died in Pabna, 24 out of 199 died in Kushtia and 20 out of 73 died in Chuadanga due to other diseases like cancer, he said.
Recently DCH has taken steps to conduct a country-wide survey and its preliminary work has been done. "For confirmation samples have been taken from suspected arsenic victims," he also said. Sharing his experience Quamruzzaman said, people are now well-informed about the menace, but they have little choices as the government is yet to come up with a comprehensive plan to ensure safe water use.
Presenting a paper Inamul Haque stressed the importance at proper utilisation of water. "Otherwise, the country may sink into trouble," he said.
He portrayed how internal and external threats are endangering country's water bodies and urged the government to have a national, regional and global solution to the issue. Discussing the topic, Mahmuder Rahman called for a comprehensive plan of action for safe water. "The country has long been suffering from arsenic problem. We have to ensure safe water for all," he said adding that political will is imperative to face the crisis (The Independent, February 1. 2010).
Tube well water was once believed to be the ultimate in safe water. That being so the decision by the UN and the World Bank to provide tube wells to as many people as possible was right. But when testing the water for contaminants, they overlooked the need to check for arsenic, a lapse that was to have far reaching effects on the people of Bangladesh. The people were duped into thinking a tube well was the answer to their prayers and they were more than ready to go along with the idea of a "clean" water supply close at hand. At that time no one could guess that such a large undertaking would end in poisoning the people it was intended to protect and, as arsenic is not only colourless but tasteless, it was many years before the discovery of arsenic in the groundwater surfaced.
The government of Bangladesh was confronted with a huge problem hitherto unknown as nothing of this kind had happened before and so it did not know how to handle the crisis so unceremoniously thrust upon them. The result was predictable. The government went into denial and even though victims were already surfacing, the government happily buried its head in the sand. It was only as the magnitude of the problem became known that the World Health Organisation and the World Bank came on the scene. But it was already too late to save the people, as by then the arsenic contamination was too widespread. It soon went down as "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history." Yet had anyone noticed, the signs were already there but as doctors did not have any experience of arsenic poisoning, the symptoms were ignored. Later studies predicted that ultimately, one person in ten who drank the contaminated water would die from lung, bladder or skin cancer and by 2004 around 3,000 people a year were dying.
On the occasion of this year's World Water Day, the government and UN officials published a new report calling for urgent action to tackle what was more than to decades later still a problem of some magnitude. The problem had also exacerbated as crops irrigated with the contaminated water were found to contain arsenic. The report stated that arsenic still poses a health risk to a significant proportion of the population of Bangladesh, which might sound like the understatement of the year because children are particularly vulnerable. Even babies in the womb have not been spared. What is worse is that an UNICEF survey found 13 per cent of people are still using arsenic-contaminated water for drinking. Horrifyingly, some of them know it to be contaminated. As Yan Zheng, an UNICEF arsenic specialist based in Dhaka said, that means 20 million people are consuming arsenic contaminated water.
As of today the situation is that, although the skin lesions that arsenic causes are well recognised by villagers, cancer and cardiovascular diseases are not recognised neither by villagers nor worse, by health professionals. Ms Zheng said the UNICEF study showed significantly higher death rates for those exposed to arsenic, while a government source said 30 million people are exposed to arsenicosis and 50,000 are afflicted. There could be more because, according to the WHO standard, the level of arsenic in drinking water should not exceed 01 mg per litre, but the standard in vogue for Bangladesh is 0.5 mg per litre.
Creating an awareness of the problem has no real meaning when many people are unable to find an alternative water source that is safe. Unless positive steps are taken to contain this menace, in course of time the health services will be overwhelmed and with arsenic in the food chain, the arsenic menace threatens to kill in numbers. But once having told the people to drink tube well water, health workers are faced with an irrefutable problem how to tell people not to drink the groundwater. By the 1990s, half the 10 million tube wells that had been sunk, were contaminated and nearly two decades later the full dimension of the menace cannot be known. As if that isn't enough the intellectual development of an untold number of children is being held back. Skin lesions are just the first sign of many possible fatal health and social problems. The lesions still attract widespread social stigma with many people believing they were the result of a curse. In Jessore, groundwater was known as "The Devil's Water" and it now seems the people there were not far wrong.
According to Renata Lok Dessallien, the UN chief in Bangladesh, "Urgent action is needed to refocus the attention of the nation towards an arsenic-safe environment. Concerted efforts by the government and all stakeholders are needed to reinvigorate arsenic monitoring and mitigation efforts and to conduct comprehensive research on emerging threats." But instead of focusing on providing safe water supplies a fierce row now rages over the responsibility for the massive contamination.
Last year some scientists concluded that arsenic entered the water in tube wells as a result of thousands of ponds that were dug across Bangladesh to provide soil for flood protection, but this has been refuted by other scientists. Thus the origin of the dissolved arsenic in the Ganges Delta continues to puzzle scientists and researchers alike and the source of the organic carbon that fuels the processes remains controversial.
The minister of health, Dr A F M Ruhal Haque, said, "Raising awareness among people on the danger of arsenic is essential. Health workers can disseminate this message, while the government will continue to invest in screening and treatment of arsenicosis patients in affected districts." That is welcome as arsenic in the groundwater is still causing death and disease for thousands of people living in villages. Many people do not have a choice as they do not have any alternative water supply.
With specialists from Dhaka Medical College, Mitford Hospital, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University reporting a rapid increase in different cancers, liver cirrhosis, kidney, skin patients due to arsenic poisoning, it is a matter for concern. Dr. M. N. Huda of Mitford Hospital said arsenic patients from Kachua, Motaleb of Chadpur, Daudkandi of Comilla and Munshiganj are increasing in number every day.
One aspect of arsenic poisoning has not been highlighted well enough but consuming arsenic on a daily basis reduces the productivity level of a man and affects economic growth. Although the World Health Organisation, (WHO) said if the contaminated water source could be replaced by contaminated free water, a person can be brought back to good health, this is also within a limited time frame. But with ninety seven percent of the population relying on groundwater for drinking purposes, shallow tube wells that can no longer provide them with safe water predominate. Geographically, tubes wells in the delta and flood plains comprising of 72 percent of the landed area are more or less affected by arsenic contamination. But as arsenic contaminated aquifers have no regular pattern and vary both horizontally and vertically within short distances, it is difficult to pinpoint the position of the affected tube wells. This makes this a water supply and health issue. The supply of safe drinking water also brings with it the issue of appropriate and affordable technology options for a community dreadfully poor. Raising awareness is not so easy. Raising awareness that arsenicosis is not contagious and that social exclusion is not justified is a seemingly insurmountable problem although the variety of ways arsenic can affect life attracted the attention of a diverse group of stakeholders, not all from purely holistic intent. But the lack of coordination among different ministries and government agencies, academics, NGOs and bilateral/multi-national development partner agencies has resulted in inflicting on the people conflicting strategies. We need to adopt a spirit of "togetherness" if we are to make full use of the need for the optimal use of scarce resources. A new policy guideline for arsenic mitigation programmes for the arsenic affected areas is called for to guide and co-ordinate all activities In addition we need a programme to identify all arsenic affected people and their treatment must be accelerated. (Sylvia Mortoza , May 30, 2010).)
Up to 77 million Bangladeshis have been exposed to toxic levels of arsenic from contaminated drinking water, and even low-level exposure to the poison is not risk-free, The Lancet medical journal reported. Over the past decade, more than 20 percent of deaths recorded in a study that monitored nearly 12,000 people in the Araihazar district of the capital Dhaka appear to have been caused by arsenic-tainted well water.Content
By some estimates, between 35 and 77 million people in Bangladesh have been chronically exposed to arsenic-contaminated water as a result of a catastrophically misguided campaign in the 1970s. Millions of tube wells were drilled in the aim of providing villagers with clean, germ-free water. Many wells were inadvertently dug into shallow layers of soil that were heavily laced with naturally occurring arsenic.
The UN's World Health Organisation (WHO) has called Bangladesh's arsenic crisis "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history." Several previous investigations highlighted the health risks of contaminated groundwater, but they failed to explain how much of the tainted water a person may have drunk and what level of contamination was enough to cause sickness.
In the new study released Saturday, physicians checked the volunteers' overall health and took blood and urine samples every two years. They also took samples of local well water to monitor for arsenic levels. After six years, 407 deaths had occurred from all causes, 21 percent of which could be attributed to arsenic concentrations above the UN's recommended threshold. Of deaths linked to chronic disease, 24 percent were associated with exposure to the poison at such levels. The death rate rose in line with the exposure.
Bangladesh authorities reacted cautiously to the study. "To be frank, I have my doubts about these findings -- I would like to examine their methodology more closely," Bangladeshi Health Minister AFM Ruhal Haque told AFP on Sunday.
"Arsenic is a problem in Bangladesh, there is no question about that, but the risk that contaminated groundwater poses to the majority of the population has been blown out of proportion by this study," he said. "Tube wells are a problem, but the government has been testing all wells, and when we find a contaminated one, we clearly mark them and stop villagers using them."
The government is distributing a new peat filter which can purify arsenic contaminated water in the worst-affected areas of the country, and it also expanding its surface water cleaning and distribution network, he added. The study found that when compared to those exposed to the lowest arsenic levels (less than 10 microgrammes of arsenic per litre of water), people with levels of 10-50 microgrammes had a 34 percent higher risk of death. Those with the highest level of exposure (between 150 and 864 microgrammes) had a 64-percent higher risk of death.
But even exposure at relatively lower levels carried a risk, a finding that is important for other countries -- there are more than 70 of them, including the United States, India and Mexico -- that face a serious arsenic problem. In the study, 23 percent of the volunteers were exposed to water with up to 10 microgrammes of arsenic per litre, which is the UN recommended maximum.
Twenty-one percent were exposed to concentrations of between 10 and 50 microgrammes, with 50 microgrammes the current Bangladesh standard. Thirty-one percent were exposed to between 50 and 150 microgrammes; and 25 percent to between 150 microgrammes and the maximum tested level, of 864 microgrammes.
Chronic exposure to arsenic is linked with cancers of the liver, kidney, bladders and skin, as well as heart disease. Given the long-term effect of arsenic, taking a temporary break from exposure was no solution, for the risk of death remained the same, the researchers found (Afp Dhaka, June 21, 2010)
Unabated mining of groundwater for irrigation is causing heavy deposits of arsenic in vast tracts of the country's cultivable lands, posing a threat to crop production in future. Noting that non-flooded lands are particularly at risk of arsenic accumulation due to heavy dependency on groundwater irrigation for paddy production, two Bangladeshi researchers have cautioned against further expansion of dry-season rice -- Boro-- at the cost of depositing more arsenic in soil.
Food security is at stake due to the growing threat of arsenic contamination of groundwater and the possible entry of arsenic into food chain, which is posing health hazards, experts said yesterday. They also called on the government, non-government organisations and other stakeholders to address the issue of arsenic contamination of water and food immediately to reduce its impacts on health.
They made the call at the publication ceremony of a research-based book 'Towards an Arsenic Safe Environment in Bangladesh' at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the city. Dr A Atiq Rahman, executive director of Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) and the leading author of the publication, said arsenic contamination poses major challenges in achieving the goal of safe water for all by 2011. According to a recent survey of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and Unicef, 12.6 percent of households, equivalent to about two crore people, still drink water containing arsenic, he said.
According to the publication, arsenic poses health risks to a significant proportion of the population. Arsenic poisoning can impair the intellectual function of children. Rice irrigated with arsenic contaminated water can contribute substantially to the daily intake of arsenic, because it is the main staple food (Daily Star, 23 March, 2010).
They also found penetration of arsenic into the grains, though at a low level. And they found presence of up to 0.3 milligram of arsenic in per kilogram of paddy grown in their research site in Munshiganj district. Prof M Ashraf Ali, one of the researchers, said, "We cannot say for sure the degree of health hazard it poses for human body right at the moment as there is no set standard of permissible arsenic level in food as yet."
He went on, "If the croplands continue to accumulate larger amount of arsenic, the level of its penetration into the food chain will be higher too posing greater risks." Arsenic is a notoriously poisonous metalloid classified as a Class-1 carcinogen, meaning it is too harmful to humans. Other Class-1 carcinogens include asbestos, formaldehyde and hepatitis B and C viruses.
A galaxy of leading arsenic researchers from home and abroad studied the impact of irrigation with their findings published in the January issue of the London-based Nature Geoscience. The researchers include ABM Badruzzaman and M Ashraf Ali, both professor of civil engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
Talking to The Daily Star at Buet recently, the two experts said arsenic drawn to the surface by groundwater irrigation is largely removed (up to 62 per cent) in the following monsoon if the lands go under floodwater about one metre in depth. But paddy fields not experiencing typical monsoon flooding are particularly at risk of arsenic accumulation, posing a potential threat of penetrating into food chain in future, they said.
According to official statistics, only 21 percent of Bangladesh's total lands are submerged by floodwater around a metre in depth while the rest remains largely vulnerable to arsenic accumulation due to mining of groundwater. Badruzzaman and Ashraf Ali, having long track records of arsenic research, worked for years along with co-researchers at an experimental site in Mnshiganj. The team included experts from from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, USA, and a couple of Swiss and German research centres of excellence. The current issue of Nature Geoscience that has an editorial titled 'Digging Deeper'focused on arsenic issues and carried their findings based on field studies.
The researchers said up to 250 milligram (mg) of soil arsenic (in per square metre of cultivable land) is released into floodwater during the monsoon season, which correspondents to a loss of up to 62 percent of the arsenic added to soil through irrigation each year. The rest is deposited in the cropland unless removed by 'volatilisation and transportation' to deeper layers. Their field studies found large tracts of paddy lands that do not experience yearly monsoon flooding continue to be burdened with accumulated deposits of arsenic drawn to the cropland through irrigation.
Bangladesh's food basket now heavily depends on the irrigated-rice Boro that contributes 60 percent of annual rice output, far surpassing the rain-fed Aman output. Explaining the reasons behind arsenic accumulation due to groundwater irrigation, Badruzzaman said, "Due to drawing of groundwater by over a million shallow pumps from 100-150 feet beneath the surface, 'young' water gathers from all possible directions and with that 'young' carbons get oxidised dissolving iron and mixing arsenic into the water."
Cultivable lands, annually washed by monsoon floods, said Badruzzaman, are relatively safer in terms of arsenic accumulation but "policy planners need to seriously think over extracting groundwater for irrigation in non-flooded lands." Ashraf Ali emphasised further studies on arsenic and irrigation issues so that various mitigation and adaptation mechanisms can be developed.
Both of them also stressed efficient use of water by Bangladeshi farmers in growing winter rice. Over half of the country's 8.4 million hectares of arable land are under irrigation now. And typically the rice growers use 3,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of dry-season rice. (Daily Star, January 15, 2010). Content
77m poisoned by arsenic in drinking water
BBC, 19 June 2010
Up to 77 million people in Bangladesh have been exposed to toxic levels of arsenic from drinking water in recent decades, according to a Lancet study.Content
The research assessed nearly 12,000 people in a district of the capital Dhaka for over a period of 10 years. More than 20% of deaths among those assessed were caused by the naturally occurring poisonous element, it found.
The World Health Organization said the exposure was "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history". It began after hand-pumped wells were installed in the 1970s to tap groundwater.
Scientists say even small amounts of arsenic over a long period can cause cancer of the bladder, kidney, lung or skin. Bangladesh was chosen for the study because nearly 90% of the population uses groundwater as its primary source of fresh water.
Arsenic contamination, a major health hazard for many years now, is yet to be contained or brought under control. The LGRD minister himself has admitted that around two crore people are suffering due to arsenic contamination that can cause incurable diseases.
It is a matter of concern that 15 lakh people are exposed to arsenic pollution in Fakirhat upazila alone, in the southern district of Bagerhat. At least 20 'arsenicosis' patients in the upazila are reported to have died since 2006. The deaths were caused by intake of arsenic polluted water over a long period of time. Now, the question is what the health authorities and all other departments concerned are doing to bring down the level of arsenic in the affected areas. The surprising and shocking news is that the civil surgeon of Bagerhat has stated in very clear terms that he is not aware of any such death. So, what is going on? Are the arsenicosis patients deprived of treatment? Is the district hospital equipped with the necessary facilities to treat such patients? Finally, it is evident that the district health authorities are not monitoring the situation. Else, the civil surgeon would have been better informed to comment on the situation.
Whatever the civil surgeon has to say, the truth that arsenicosis is prevalent in certain areas cannot be refuted, nor can the deaths be overlooked.
The battle against arsenic contamination is quite a complex thing as it cannot be directly prevented. The solution, therefore, lies in ensuring that people do not drink highly polluted water. We heard about the invention of an arsenic-resistant filter, but it is not known whether it is being used effectively. The problem is compounded by the fact that the majority of people in rural areas are not aware of the hazards associated with drinking water containing arsenic beyond the permissible level. The report from Fakirhat suggests that the awareness campaign against arsenic contamination has not made much headway.
The government has to address the issue in right earnest. The nature and magnitude of arsenic contamination in the southern districts indicates that people are badly exposed to slow arsenic poisoning. The situation might be worse than what it was a few years ago when arsenic contamination was identified as a health hazard. We suggest that the government form a special taskforce to investigate and report on the issue on a top priority basis (THE SUN, 31 october 2010)
Millions in Bangladesh exposed to arsenic in drinking water BANGLADESHJune 20, 2010|By Brian Walker, CNN
could be the worst mass poisoning in history. And the terrible irony is that it may all be due to an idealistic push to clean up drinking water for some of the world's poorest people.
A new study published in British medical journal The Lancet says that up to 77 million people in Bangladesh are being exposed to toxic levels of arsenic, potentially taking years or decades off their lives.
An international team of researchers from Chicago, New York and Bangladesh followed 12,000 people over the past decade, monitoring their arsenic intake and mortality rates from contaminated wells.
Use of arsenic-contaminated water jeopardising lives of millions
Researchers writing in The Lancet study calculated that in the past thirty years, roughly 77 million people in Bangladesh, around half of the country’s population, were accidentally exposed to arsenic contaminated water.The arsenic problem in Bangladesh has not been taken as a serious threat to public health. A decade ago the government, donor organisations, NGO's and research institutions declared that people of Bangladesh were vulnerable to arsenic contamination of water. Numerous projects designed to solve the problem have been taken up by different organisations with large amount of foreign fund flowing in. But the irony is after so many years of such initiatives the organizations - foreign and local - have failed to ensure safe drinking water for the people of Bangladesh. *Mortuza Ali Chowdhury Milan . June 28.2010
Using a century’s worth of data collected by the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS), scientists tracked arsenic poisoning in correlation with mortality rates. The massive study involved testing 11,746 participants every two years, in addition to testing 5,966 wells for contamination.
All participants with arsenic contamination, regardless of the concentration, had an increased risk of mortality -- meaning that people exposed to the Bangladesh safety standard levels (50 micrograms/liter) and even the WHO recommended standard levels (10 micrograms/liter) were at increased risk of sickness.
The most disturbing results, however, showed that once individuals were exposed to high arsenic levels, their risk of mortality remained high even after they subsequently decreased or stopped their exposure.
Arsenic threat likely to haunt Bangladesh in coming years, January 19, 2011
Arsenic contamination in groundwater has severely affected the country, as between 18 million to 77 million Bangladeshis are in danger of suffering from arsenicosis, experts and physicians said in an international conference here yesterday. “Estimates of affected people vary widely. Of the 140 million people in Bangladesh, at least 18-77 million are exposed to the risk of arsenic contamination. Among them, 14-20 million have been affected,” professor of Dhaka Medical College (DMC), Dr Abdul Wadud Khan, said.
He was addressing the 9th International Conference on Arsenic Poisoning, organised by Dhaka Community Hospital (DCH). The conference had been presided over by DCH chairman Quazi Quamruzzaman. Harvard Medical School’s David Bellinger, David C. Christiani, Robert Wright, Dr Molly Kite, Maitreyi Mazumder, along with Dipankar Chakrabarti from Jadavpur University’s School of Environmental Studies, Prof. Ravi Naidu of South Australia University, and Richard Wilson of Harvard School of Public Health, spoke at the conference.
Dr Abdul Wadud Khan said, "Out of 64 districts, 59 districts have arsenic above maximum permissible level, 75 million have been exposed to infection, and 24 million are potentially exposed to arsenicosis." "All over the country, 6,528 people die from cancer every year, and a total of 326,400 people will die in a period of 50 years, while around 2.5 million people will develop keratosis, hyper pigmentation, cough, breathlessness, glycosuria and high blood pressure, over that period," Dr Khan said.
Dipankar Chakrabarti said that some portions of all the Indian states in the Ganga-Brahmaputra plains in India – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam – along with the flood plains of eight North Eastern Hill States in India, and the Padma-Meghna-Brahmaputra plains in Bangladesh have been affected by arsenic contamination in groundwater. More than 100 million people of this area remained potentially at risk, he added.
David C. Bellinger said that lead exposure also remained a public health problem throughout the world, and particularly in developing countries. As the effects of lead exposure have been found in adults and children, Dr Bellinger warned that it could have severe implications for children whose central nervous system could be affected. “The most important remedial action is prevention of further exposure, by providing safe drinking-water and nutrition,” he added (Independent January 19, 2011).
The number of the Arsenic patients has been increasing in the district of Jhenidah- January 6, 2011
: The number of the Arsenic patients has been increasing in the district of Jhenidah. It was disclosed at a meeting organized by a NGO Forum in the conference room of the deputy commissioner of Jhenaidah district on Wednesday. Deputy Commissioner Roma Rani Roy was the chief guest of the programme while Civil Surgeon Dr. Md. Keramat Ali attended it as special guest. ADC (Gen) Sheikh Rafiqul Islam presided at the meeting, addressed by Moheshpur upazila Chairman Md. Siddiqur Rahman, Deputy Director of Public Health and Engineering Anjum Ara Begum, UNO Kaliganj MA Ansary and Jhenaidah Press club President Md. Abdur Rahman.
Dr. Md. Keramat Ali in his speech said that arsenic contamination in this district was increasing at an alarming rate for using water of Arsenic contaminated tube-wells in many villages. When Jhenaidah Health Department conducted a survey in this regard last year, it detected a total of 742 arsenic affected patients.
Sources said that everyday people are using arsenic contaminated water and getting affected. He emphasized the need to examine all the tube-wells and mark them with red colour to caution the people.
Deputy Commissioner Roma Rani Roy said that the arsenic testing machine cost Tk 900 only which is too much for the poor family to afford. Moreover, there is lack of testing machine in the district according to need (The Independent)
Arsenic menace spreading fast About 1,525 attacked with arsenic related diseases in Jessore , March 27, 2011
Sources said, vast areas of three border upazilas of Jessore district are in the grip of arsenic contamination since long without any remedy despite measures taken by different government and non-government organizations. These upazilas are Sarsha, Jhikorgachha and Chowgachha. While other five upazilas are sporadically affected, according to a source in the district Health Department. About 1,525 patients with arsenicosis disease have been detected in these areas and 20 of them died, including 13 in at Kamarpara under Chadkhali union, Uzzalpur under Bakra union and Azampur under Shimulia union of Jhikorgachha upazila. Others died in Sarsha upazila, it is gathered.
According to a source in the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), Jessore a total of 89,873 shallow tube wells in the eight upazilas of Jessore district were detected with arsenic contamination out of total 2,23,645 tube wells in the district. The break-up is as follows : A total of 14,264 out of 25,152 in Jhikorgachha upazila, 10,975 out of 24,816 in Sarsha upazila, 12,353 out of 21,244 in Keshabpur upazil,a 14,991 out of 32,757 in Monirampur upazila, 23,104 out of 43,634 in Sadar upazila, 6,878 out of 21,856 in Chowgachha upazila, 4,253 out of 20,504 in Abhoynagar upazila and 3,056 out of 20,680 in Bagerpara upazila.
All these shallow tube wells are marked with red colour so that the people do not use water of those for drinking and cooking purposes. But even then, people do use the same as there are several villages where 100 per cent tube wells are arsenic infested. Besides, DPHE, NGO Forum for Drinking Water and Sanitation, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Asia Arsenic Mitigation Network are working round the clock in these areas for mitigating arsenic menace. It is gathered that out of the total 1,524 patients detected so far with arsenicosis, conditions of 524 patients are serious.
There are 10 arsenic-related patients at village Ektarpur, 12 in Bahirghat, 10 at Palpara and 32 in Prembag villages under Abhoynagar upazila. There are 28 patients at village Bagachra and 25 at village Tengra under Sarsha upazila. There are 48 patients at village Kamairali and 29 at village Mirzapur both under Nirbash-Khola union. There are 25 patients at village Chandpur and 16 at Gulbakpur under Ganganandapur union, all under Jhikorgachha upazila. There are 59 patients at village Jagohati and 14 at village Jhaudia, both under Churamonkati union and 18 at village Gaidachi under Basundia union, all under Jessore Sadar upazila.
There are 122 patients at village Marua under Jagodishpur union, 32 at village Kushtia under Duliani union and 11 at village Charabaria under Phulsara union, all under Chowgachha upazila. There are 11 in each of village Champatola under Bandabila union and village Khanpur under Bariealbaria union in Bagerpara upazila. There are 11 patients at village Gourichora in Keshbapur upazila under Jessore district. It is gathered that besides DPHE, JICA is working in Jhikorgachha and Sarsha upazilas. NGO Forum for DWSS is also working in Jhikorgachha and Asia Arsenic Network is working in Sagardari under Keshabpur upazila for mitigating arsenic infestation in the affected areas.
The goal of these programmes is to prevent the villagers from drinking arsenic contaminated water. Besides, the villagers are to secure safe drinking water and independently operate and maintain such alternative water sources through these NGOs. It is also learnt, of all those villages in the district, the conditions of village Samta in Sarsha upazila and Marua in Chowgachha upazila are the worst as hundred per cent inhabitants of these areas are arsenic infested for absence of safe drinking water. The overall condition of Chadkhati in Jhikorgachha is also alarming.
According to health officials, use of arsenic contaminated water can develop melanosis and keratosis diseases at the primary stage, leuko-melanosis and hyper keratosis in the second stage and ultimately may turn to skin cancer, liver cancer and bronchitis with severe spasm. It is gathered from MHSCGWAPB project of NGO Forum that the areas close to Indian border are the worst affected due to flow of underground level of water.
Ghadkhali, Shimulia and Bankra unions of Jhikorgachha upazila are also the worst affected because out of 1,530 tube wells in these unions, 1,500 are heavily arsenic infested and declared as unfit for human consumption. But 16,601 population of these areas have no other alternatives, even the water of deep tube wells is also found arsenic contaminated. Mass awareness has been created by the public representatives and NGO workers against the fatal consequence of using the contaminated water for drinking and cooking purposes. Arsenic contamination was detected in the shallow tube wells in the district of Satkhira, Khulna, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Kushtia and greater Rajshahi districts besides Jessore, all are close to the border areas of West Bengal in the year 1996. Knowledgeable circles are of the opinion that the government should seek international help and assistance in mitigating arsenic infestation in these areas as early as possible (Independent, March 27, 2011)
A dangerous but neglected issue, April 7, 2011
Bangladesh is no stranger to environmental disasters, but the biggest and most insidious of them is arsenic contamination of groundwater.
Although this impending tragedy was most definitely known in 1990, it took another seven years for the Government of Bangladesh to finally admit to the world that another disaster was unfolding in this country often buffeted by nature.
Bad as it was this tragedy has not been given the attention it deserved, nor has it been effectively handled by successive governments.
Even educating people about its dangers was not awfully successful. As Dr. Allen H. Smith said, "It seems like nonsense to people, telling them the water is killing them when it looks so clean and nice."
It not only looked clean and nice, it tasted good too but as the water cleverly concealed its true nature how was it possible to convince them that the arsenic in the water was a slow sadistic killer? That the public education programme also failed is evidenced by the fact that two decades later those who switched over to the “safe water” are still baffled when told that the water was poisoned. Worse still, having got used to having water on their doorsteps they were unwilling to give up this convenience for the inconvenience of carrying water from the river or pond. And though the people need to be prevented from drinking contaminated water, they mostly do not pay heed to such warnings until it is too late to protect them. The result of this is that many villagers are showing signs of poisoning. Despite the passage of time, Bangladesh is still fighting what was once called the "largest mass poisoning of a population in history." Even so it is hard to know the extent of the contamination or how many people will die from arsenic-related causes, although one of our own public health specialists predicted long ago that a total of three to five million people will suffer from the effect of arsenic poisoning.
That prediction seems to be becoming true as the number of the afflicted rises. As Han A. Heijnen, once the environmental health adviser for the World Health Organization in Dhaka said, "It has been a terrible frustration to watch. So much remains to be done.” Unfortunately no one is counting the cost, yet the cost to the economy is very great as the victims of arsenic poisoning can no longer work to support themselves. Consequently, two decades later there remains so much to be done (Independent April 7, 2011)
Arsenic contamination increases in Narail, April 30, 2011
The people of all the three upazilas in Narail district are facing severe threat of arsenic contamination in respect of underground water. According to Narail District Public Health Engineering Department, arsenic was found in 20,036 tube wells out of 46,703 surveyed in Kalia, Lohagora and Narail sadar upazilas under the arsenic mitigation programme.
The sources said, some 168 persons were found to have been affected with arsenic in the district as they were suffering from chronic poisoning.
The numbers of arsenic affected people are increasing in the above upazilas day by day. Kalia upazila is severely arsenic affected area. About 80 percent tube-wells are marked with red paint to warn the people that these tube wells contained arsenic, said M Anwar Hussain Mollah, Executive Engineer of Narail Public Health Engineering Department.
PASA, a non-government organisation conducted lab test and worked for raising awareness among the people about arsenic problem in Lohagora upazila and detected the patients who were drinking excessively contaminated water. Ulashi Srizony Sangha, another non- government organisation, did same work at Kalia upazila, sources said. DPHE sources said that water of 11,988 tube wells were tested in Kalia upazila of which arsenic beyond permissible level were detected in 8,276 tube wells, 18,807 tube wells were tested in Lohagora upazila of which contamination of arsenic were detected in 8,626 tube wells and 15,908 tube wells were tested in sadar upazila of which contamination of arsenic was detected in 3,134 tube wells. Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) found that around six lakh people in the district have been affected by arsenic contamination. The affected people are suffering mainly from skin and stomach diseases, civil surgeon Doctor Abdus Samad told BSS.
Kalia municipality area and Baranal-Iliasabad, Baoisona, Babra-Hasla, Pahardanga, Salamabad, Joynagor, Mauli, Kalabaria and Khasial unions of Kalia upazila under the district are the worst affected places as some 58 arsenic patients had been detected there, the survey also revealed. People in the affected areas are also suffering from acute shortage of pure drinking water as most of the contaminated tube-wells have been sealed off.
Tube-wells marked with green colour mean that their water is safe. These tube wells have been installed on schools, colleges or religious institutions premises or health complexes that are far from the houses of rural people. So, many of them have to bring water from the danger-marked red tube-wells. Some people of the district are aware of the arsenic problems as they know the usefulness of rain water in harvesting. But it is difficult to keep the rain water clean as insects grow in it after some days, they said.
People of the district demanded that authorities should install in their locality arsenic free tube-wells for their safety. The department has already informed the concerned authority about widespread arsenic contamination in the district, DPHE Narail Sadar upazila Engineer MD Mahmud Ala said (BSS and Independent. April 30, 2011)
Arsenic contamination acute in Gopalganj
Some 371 persons from among 10 lakh arsenic aff-ected people of Gopalganj district have been detected as patients as they are suffering from chronic poisoning. The district unit of BRAC conducted lab tests for around 3,49,990 people and detected the patients who were drinking excessively contaminated water.
Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) found that around 10 lakh people of the district have been affected by arsenic contamination.
They are suffering mainly from skin and stomach diseases, DPHE executive engineer said.
About 99 percent tube-wells in the Sadar, Muksudpur, Kasiani and Tungipara upazilas have been found contaminated, he said. A total of 20823 tube-wells in the Sadar upazila have been tested contaminated, a survey by district unit of BRAC revealed.
Around four lakh people in the upazila are drinking heavily contaminated water, the survey revealed. Chandradigolia village of Paikkandi union of the upazila has been found the worst affected place as some 91 arsenic patients have been detected there, the survey also revealed.
People in the affected areas are also suffering from acute shortage of pure drinking water as most of the contaminated tube-wells have been sealed off. About 52,000 people of 13 villages of Durgapur union are drinking contaminated water as they don't find arsenic free tube-well in the area, said Nurul Nazmul, a college teacher of Durgapur union.
Only the people of Gopalganj municipality get arsenic free water as the local government body ensures them adequate supply, BRAC office sou-rces said. The department has already informed the ministry concerned about widespread arsenic contamination in the district, DPHE executive engineer said (Daily Sun,April 2011)
The risks from arsenic and their fallout, May 14, 2011
Speakers at a workshop in Dhaka called for supply of safe drinking water as the country's five million people in 61 of a total of 64 districts are at risk of arsenic poisoning. To date, about 35,000 to 36,000 people across the country have been affected by arsenic contamination, with the exception of Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban. When someone is affected by arsenicosis, information on arsenic contamination and its preventive measures can help them cope. Speakers at the workshop called for extending the tenure and scope of the project so that a larger number of people can benefit but everyone must be mindful of the fact that, there is no cure for arsenicosis. Once the half-way mark has been reached only the consumption of safe drinking water, vitamin-rich foods and vegetables can be of help to them but it cannot cure those who are affected.
They also called on the government to take a leading role in addressing the arsenic issue and the supply of safe drinking water as arsenic contamination is killing and maiming people. The fact that this is a serious problem has not been given the attention it deserves. But due to our inability to handle it, arsenic is now in the food chain because arsenic contaminated groundwater has been used indiscriminately for irrigation purposes. This must be stopped now. The entry of arsenic into the food chain through various food crops and fodder is no laughing matter and it is necessary to analyse soil and vegetable samples from arsenic-affected areas to test for arsenic content.
Concentration of arsenic as high as 80mg per kg of soil was found in an area receiving arsenic-contaminated irrigation water. A comparison of crops grown in affected and unaffected areas reveals that some commonly grown vegetables accumulate substantially elevated amounts of arsenic, as for example, more than 150 mg/kg of arsenic has been found to accumulate in arum (kochu) vegetable.
Unfortunately individual and household knowledge of specific illnesses caused by arsenic is poor. The level of education of the people does have a positive effect on individual decisions to avoid arsenic exposure but the lack of a convenient source of safe drinking water often leads people to continue drinking arsenic-contaminated water, even when they know it is contaminated. Certainly the discovery of arsenic in the groundwater has challenged all our efforts to provide safe drinking water to the people of rural Bangladesh. Two nationally representative surveys in 2000 and 2002 investigated water-usage patterns, water testing, knowledge of arsenic poisoning, and behavioural responses.
Although knowledge of arsenicosis rose among women between the two surveys, awareness of the consequences was limited as only 13 percent of women knew it could lead to death. Behavioural responses to arsenic have been limited because most households are uncertain of how best to respond to the information given. One problem is their preference for tubewell water, even when the wells are known to be contaminated. The survey team highlighted the difficulties in providing alternative sources of water. As a result many households switched back to their original water sources with the result that water-borne diseases have increased.
Agriculture places a high demand on water resources. A growing movement is working to make access to clean water a basic universal human right. If it can be determined that water is a right, it gives citizens a tool they can use against their governments. Experts on water issues say providing citizens of a country with a legal right to what is deemed to be a minimally adequate amount of safe water would be an important way of mitigating the effect of arsenic contamination. But the serious nature of the problem has gone underground like the water that is poisoning people. It is essential that public awareness about the arsenic contamination that is killing and maiming the population of Bangladesh is raised as arsenic contamination is truly a serious problem that has not been given the attention it deserves. Its entry into the food chain through various food crops and fodder is no small matter.
It is therefore necessary to analyse soil and vegetable samples from arsenic-affected areas to test for arsenic content. Unfortunately, however, individual and household knowledge of specific illnesses caused by arsenic exposure is very poor. (Sylvia Mortoza, Independent, 15.05,11)
Life-threatening arsenic finds its way into rice, May 23, 2011.
Life-threatening arsenic is making its way into hundreds and thousands of kitchens across the country. Scientists have recently detected traces of arsenic in rice, the main staple of the people of Bangladesh. “Indeed, the presence of arsenic appears to be increasing in both upland and lowland conditions, contributing to the accumulation of the toxin in plants. The amount of arsenic was found to be relatively high in upland conditions than in submerged conditions," said Prof. SM Imamul Huq, chairman of the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR).
As much as 0.020-128.03 mg/kg arsenic was found in rice samples during laboratory tests, the BCSIR chairman said. "In 2009, we have conducted a study on pot culture by growing rice on arsenic sludge. Now, we are harvesting rice on the BCSIR premises on arsenic sludge under a field culture project," he added.
Thousands of filters are being used in arsenic-contaminated areas across the country. Arsenic sludge is being dumped indiscriminately on soil, which is a great environmental threat to mankind, Dr Huq said. He said the government should take steps to properly dispose of such poisonous sludge and not dump it in farmlands. Otherwise, it might contaminate the food chain, he added. He also said arsenic sludge could be disposed of in non-farmlands, such as graveyards, instead of dumping it indiscriminately.
Dr Huq noted that exposure to inorganic arsenic could cause various health problems such as stomach irritation, intestine troubles, decreased production of red and white blood cells, skin diseases and lung irritation. He said intake of significant amounts of inorganic arsenic could cause skin cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and lymphatic cancer.
“A very high exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause infertility and miscarriages to women, and it can also cause skin disturbances, declining resistance to infections, heart disruptions and brain damage in both men and women. Finally, inorganic arsenic can damage the DNA,” he added.
The World Health Organisation puts the safe quantity of arsenic consumption at 0.15 mg/kg a day, Dr Huq said. Former research director of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), MA Salam, said 275 mg/kg arsenic was found in paddy plants. He said the presence of 0.05 mg/kg arsenic is tolerable in water level as per the WHO guideline(Independent, May 23, 2011).
Access to clean water and sanitation is a fundamental human right????
When the United Nations General Assembly in a historic vote last year declared for the first time that access to clean water and sanitation is a fundamental human right, it reaffirmed the view that water is essential to creating and sustaining life. It also rejected the model that views water as merchandise, similar to any other commodity. The UN declaration puts the onus on governments to guarantee access to safe water for all its citizens. For a riverine tropical country like Bangladesh, this might not seem a big deal - there is water everywhere, sometimes too much of it. But beneath the surface, the picture remains murky.
Samia, Maria, Borsha and Rubel, aged between six and ten, are cousins. They live side by side in the twin tin-roofed houses built on land left by their late grandfather Hamid Mondol in Abirpara village in Sirajdikhan, Munshiganj. Arsenic had been discovered in tubewell water in the 1990s and Hamid Mondol had a specially constructed dug-well installed on his land to make sure his family drank clean water.
All that changed after Hamid Mondol died and the land was divided up between his two sons, Alamgir and Samir. The well -- painted green to indicate that it was arsenic-free - is located on Alamgir's property. After a dispute between the brothers, Alamgir Mondol forbade Samir's family to take water from the green well.
Samia and her cousins play together all day, but cannot drink from the same well.
"We have to walk almost a kilometre to get water from another green well," says Samir's wife Sakina. "So sometimes we use water from our tubewell for cooking, although it was painted red by the health authorities and we know it's dangerous." Sohel, a local health worker with the Dhaka Community Hospital (DCH), the NGO that set up the Mondols' green well, says it is a fact of life in the village that neighbours sometimes try to punish each other after disputes by restricting right of way -- and nowadays by denying them access to safe water sources.
"It's sad but it is happening quite often," says Sohel. "They think the well is on their land so it is their property. There are more and more conflicts over water. We could install more wells and water filters but for that we need fresh funds." Experts say as many as half of all Bangladeshis may be denied access to safe water -- mainly due to falling groundwater levels and arsenic contamination. A recent study in the British medical journal the Lancet found that tens of millions of people in Bangladesh have been exposed to poisonous levels of arsenic from contaminated groundwater. Bangladesh has struggled with arsenic in its water supply since a disastrous campaign in the 1970s to bring clean water to the population backfired. Millions of tube wells were drilled to provide villagers with clean water, but many of them were dug into shallow layers of ground that had naturally occurring arsenic, contaminating the water.
The Lancet study puts a figure on the toll from arsenic poisoning. The study team, led by Dr. Habibul Ahsan of the University of Chicago, found that as many as 77 million people may have been exposed to toxic levels of arsenic. Ahsan and his colleagues followed nearly 12,000 Bangladeshis over the course of 10 years and found that more than 20% of deaths were caused by arsenic.
They found that in the top 25 percent of people with the highest arsenic exposure, the risk of dying during the six years increased by nearly 70 percent compared with people with low arsenic levels.
People who drank moderate levels of arsenic were more likely to die from chronic disease than those who took in an amount within World Health Organisation recommendations of 10 micrograms per liter.
A total of 62 districts, out of 64, are affected with arsenic and nearly half of the country's population is at risk, said Prof Quazi Quamruzzaman, chairman of Dhaka Community Hospital. Although the World Health Organisation has called it the "largest mass poisoning of a population in history", experts are worried the response has been woefully inadequate. Scientists came up with an arsenic mitigation policy and action plan about ten years ago that was later approved by the government, said DCH Prof Mahmuder Rahman. But he says the government agencies, particularly the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), are yet to take this policy seriously.
"We are yet to witness any comprehensive plan by government agencies to motivate the communities for a change from tube-well to surface water or dug-wells or for rainwater harvesting," said Prof Mahmuder Rahman. The Lancet study, published nearly a decade after international experts called for a swift and comprehensive response to arsenic contamination, should serve as a wakeup call to policymakers, thinks Dr Abdul Wadud Khan, professor of Dhaka Medical College.
"Of the 140 million people in Bangladesh, at least 18-77 million are exposed to the risk of arsenic contamination. Among them, 14-20 million have been affected," Prof Khan said. "This is an ongoing crisis and requires urgent action." A visit to the Sirajdikhan Community Clinic run by DCH reveals the horrors of arsenic poisoning. Nesar Mia, a 67-year-old farmer from a nearby village, is receiving treatment for a badly affected foot. He has dark patches all over his body and his foot is a mottled mass of gangrenous tissue.
The attending doctor says if Nesar Mia had not received prompt treatment and had not stopped drinking arsenic-laced water, his foot would have to be amputated. Nesar says he was poisoned without knowing it. "I went to the local Upazilla health centre first but the doctors didn't treat me properly. I had no idea the water was so poisonous."
Local health workers say many tubewells that were tested by the DPHE and NGOs in the 1990s have not been re-tested, increasing the risk of contamination. In many cases, villagers, underestimating the risk, keep drinking from arsenic-laced wells marked red.
Dhaka is still safe, according to most studies, but high concentrations of arsenic were found in groundwater in the areas adjacent to the capital. In the metropolitan areas, access to safe water is threatened not only by pollution, but by rapidly falling water tables.
According to a study by the Institute of Water Modeling, the groundwater level is falling by three metres per year. The groundwater is now 60 metres down below the surface. That's compared to 10 metres in 1970. The cause is a combination of population growth and industrial expansion. Since 1963, Dhaka has grown 13 times over. When Bangladesh gained its independence in 1971, Dhaka saw an influx of rural-to-urban migration. The city expanded into the low-lying marshlands at its borders. Historically, most of Dhaka's water came from its two rivers, the Buriganga and the Shitalakkhya. But as people spread and industry expanded, the river water has become contaminated. Today, groundwater is expected to satisfy over 80 percent of the city's water supply. Dhaka has not been able to naturally refill the underground aquifers. The city has even tried mandating that 40-50 percent of building premises need to be unpaved, to allow water to seep into the ground. But as 65 percent of the city is already paved, and the top soil is largely clay, more needs to be done, like harvesting rainwater.
Experts say turning the rain into drinking water is a practical solution to ease Dhaka's crisis. It is estimated that rainwater harvesting systems could supply more than 15 percent of Dhaka's thirst. Since 1997, 1,000 systems have been installed in Bangladesh, mostly in rural areas. About 150 billion litres of rainwater could be harvested during the monsoon season alone. Water can be stored for four to five months without bacterial contamination-an important fact given that 110,000 children in Bangladesh die of waterborne illnesses every year. Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) is responsible for supplying drinking water to millions of people in Dhaka, but the company is faced with a number of serious challenges. The pipe networks in the city are old and a large percentage of the water produced is leaking out in the ground. Leaking pipes and low pressure takes in polluted water in the drinking water network, and securing safe water quality becomes a challenge.
Compounding the problem of contaminated water is the fact that arsenic may be finding its way into rice. A report from the international Food and Agriculture Organisation suggests that arsenic in groundwater may pose an even more insidious threat. From a major review of studies conducted in Bangladesh, and elsewhere in Asia, the report concludes that people may be exposed to arsenic not only through drinking water, but indirectly though food crops irrigated by contaminated groundwater.
"In places where there is high arsenic concentration in the water, we found a correlation with high arsenic content in crops," says Sasha Koo-Oshima, an FAO water quality and environmental officer. "Several studies have also reported a correlation between arsenic in soil and reduction in crop yields, particularly in rice. Since rice is the region's staple food, arsenic contamination could also negatively impact food security if concentrations reach levels toxic to crops." (Friday, 03 June 2011 , Daily Sun)
Arsenic menace is spreading fast in different parts of Kushtia
KUSHTIA: Arsenic menace is spreading fast in different parts of Kushtia.
Sources said vast areas of the district are in the grip of arsenic contamination without any remedy despite measures taken by different government and non-government organisations.All the upazilas of the distrist are sporadically affected. These upazilas are Kumarkhali, Khoksa, Mirpur, Daulatpur, Bheramara and Kushtia Sadar.
According to a source in the district health department, about 1,399 patients with arsenicosis disease have been detected in these areas. Of them, 731 are men and 668 women.But the department concerned did not collect any information on how many people died of the arsenicosis disease in the district.
According to a source in the Bheramara Health Complex, two patients died of the disease. But the local people said that the actual figure was greater than reported. They said at least 50 people died of Bheramara upazila in the last 10 years.
Harsan Ali and the five members of his family died of the disease in Golapnagar village under Bheramara upazila.In Bheramara upazila, Darampur and Golapnagar are in the worst condition. Almost all inhabitants of the areas are infected with arsenic. AKM Monir, Executive Director of local NGO Manob Sakti Unnayan Kendro (MSUK) and president of Kushtia BMA, told the daily sun the overall condition in Kushtia district was alarming. Minimum 10 percent people of the district are infected with the disease. According to a source in the district Health Department office, there are 281 patients suffering from arsenic-related diseases in Daulatpur upazila, 698 in Bheramara upazila, 34 in Khoksha upazila, 57 in Mirpur upazila, 220 in Kumarkhali upazila and 109 in Sadar upazila.According to a source of the National Arsenic Mitigation Centre (NAMIC), a total of 12,297 shallow tubewells in the five upazilas of Kushtia district were detected with arsenic contamination out of a total of 135,184 tubewells in the district.
All these shallow tubewells are marked red so that the people do not use water of those. But still the people use the same as there are several villages where water of all tubewells is arsenic-contaminated.According to health officials, use of arsenic-contaminated water can cause melanosis and keratosis diseases in the primary stage, leuko- melanosis and hyper keratosis in the second stage and ultimately may turn into skin cancer, liver cancer and bronchitis with severe spasm.According to the NGO Forum, the areas close to Indian border are worst-affected due to the fall of the underground water level.
Arsenic contamination was also detected in the water of shallow tubewells in Jessore, Khulna, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Satkhira and greater Rajshahi districts. All are close to the border area of West Bengal. Knowledgeable circles said the government should seek international help and assistance for mitigating the arsenic menace in these areas as early as possible. Dr. Jamal Uddin Mollah, acting civil surgeon of Kushtia, told this correspondent that they supplied free vitamin capsules for the arsenic-affected patients and suggested them not to drink arsenic-contaminated water (Edior: Prof. Dr. Syed Anwar Husain, Daily Sun, 24.08.11).
86pc tubewells' water contains arsenic
MADARIPUR, Apr 15, 2011, The Sun: Water of at least 86 percent tubewells in Madaripur district is contaminated by arsenic and about 10,000 people in four upazilas are exposed to the health hazard. Gono Unnayan Prochesta (GUP) and Ankur, two NGOs, and the Public Health Directorate conducted surveys and came up with the bleak picture.Content
The situation is going from bad to worse day by day, the surveys pointed out. The people of the four upazilas have no alternatives but to use the contaminated water, as no remedial measures have been taken by the government to lessen their woes.
Even the villagers cannot marry off their daughters due to the skin diseases they contract by using the arsenic-contaminated water. Already 894 people in four upazilas of the district are affected. Of them, 550 are in Rajoir upazila.
The non-government organisation Ankur with the help of the NGO Forum identified 190 people infected with arsenic-related diseases at Apashi and Datterhat under Sadar upazila. Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) sources said they tested water of 3,092 tubewells and recorded presence of arsenic in water of 849 tubewells above the level of 0.05mg against the permissible limit of 0.01mg.
A PHED source said although 300 shallow and 50 deep tubewells have been lying out of order for long in the district, the department has taken a new initiative to sink 560 deep tubewells in four upazilas of the district. Dr Abu Bakar Mollah, Civil Surgeon of Madaripur Sadar Hospital, said, "Arsenic-related diseases are curable and there are proper treatment facilities at the hospital."
Arsenic menace spreading People of 3 border upazilas of Jessore affected
JESSORE, MAR 24, 2o12: Arsenic menace is spreading in different parts of Jessore. Sources said, people of three border upazilas of Jessore district are in the grip of arsenic contamination since long without any remedy despite measures taken by different government and non-government organisations. These upazilas are Sarsha, Jhikorgachha and Chowgachha. While other five upazilas are sporadically affected, according to a source in the district Health Department.
About 1,525 patients with arsenicosis disease have been detected in these areas and 20 of them died, including 13 in at Kamarpara under Chadkhali union, Uzzalpur under Bakra union and Azampur under Shimulia union of Jhikorgachha upazila. Others died in Sarsha upazila, it is gathered. According to a source in the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), Jessore a total of 89,873 shallow tube wells in the eight upazilas of Jessore district were detected with arsenic contamination out of total 2,23,645 tube wells in the district.
The break-up is as follows : A total of 14,264 out of 25,152 in Jhikorgachha upazila, 10,975 out of 24,816 in Sarsha upazila, 12,353 out of 21,244 in Keshabpur upazil,a 14,991 out of 32,757 in Monirampur upazila, 23,104 out of 43,634 in Sadar upazila, 6,878 out of 21,856 in Chowgachha upazila, 4,253 out of 20,504 in Abhoynagar upazila and 3,056 out of 20,680 in Bagerpara upazila. All these shallow tube wells are marked with red colour so that the people do not use water of those for drinking and cooking purposes. But even then, people do use the same as there are several villages where 100 per cent tube wells are arsenic infested. Besides, DPHE, NGO Forum for Drinking Water and Sanitation, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Asia Arsenic Mitigation Network are working round the clock in these areas for mitigating arsenic menace. It is gathered that out of the total 1,524 patients detected so far with arsenicosis, conditions of 524 patients are serious.
There are 10 arsenic-related patients at village Ektarpur, 12 in Bahirghat, 10 at Palpara and 32 in Prembag villages under Abhoynagar upazila. There are 28 patients at village Bagachra and 25 at village Tengra under Sarsha upazila. There are 48 patients at village Kamairali and 29 at village Mirzapur both under Nirbash-Khola union. There are 25 patients at village Chandpur and 16 at Gulbakpur under Ganganandapur union, all under Jhikorgachha upazila. There are 59 patients at village Jagohati and 14 at village Jhaudia, both under Churamonkati union and 18 at village Gaidachi under Basundia union, all under Jessore Sadar upazila. There are 122 patients at village Marua under Jagodishpur union, 32 at village Kushtia under Duliani union and 11 at village Charabaria under Phulsara union, all under Chowgachha upazila. There are 11 in each of village Champatola under Bandabila union and village Khanpur under Bariealbaria union in Bagerpara upazila. There are 11 patients at village Gourichora in Keshbapur upazila under Jessore district. It is gathered that besides DPHE, JICA is working in Jhikorgachha and Sarsha upazilas. NGO Forum for DWSS is also working in Jhikorgachha and Asia Arsenic Network is working in Sagardari under Keshabpur upazila for mitigating arsenic infestation in the affected areas.
The goal of these programmes is to prevent the villagers from drinking arsenic contaminated water. Besides, the villagers are to secure safe drinking water and independently operate and maintain such alternative water sources through these NGOs. It is also learnt, of all those villages in the district, the conditions of village Samta in Sarsha upazila and Marua in Chowgachha upazila are the worst as hundred per cent inhabitants of these areas are arsenic infested for absence of safe drinking water. The overall condition of Chadkhati in Jhikorgachha is also alarming. According to health officials, use of arsenic contaminated water can develop melanosis and keratosis diseases at the primary stage, leuko-melanosis and hyper keratosis in the second stage and ultimately may turn to skin cancer, liver cancer and bronchitis with severe spasm. It is gathered from MHSCGWAPB project of NGO Forum that the areas close to Indian border are the worst affected due to flow of underground level of water.
Ghadkhali, Shimulia and Bankra unions of Jhikorgachha upazila are also the worst affected because out of 1,530 tube wells in these unions, 1,500 are heavily arsenic infested and declared as unfit for human consumption. But 16,601 population of these areas have no other alternatives, even the water of deep tube wells is also found arsenic contaminated. Mass awareness has been created by the public representatives and NGO workers against the fatal consequence of using the contaminated water for drinking and cooking purposes. Arsenic contamination was detected in the shallow tube wells in the district of Satkhira, Khulna, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Kushtia and greater Rajshahi districts besides Jessore, all are close to the border areas of West Bengal in the year 1996.
Knowledgeable circles are of the opinion that the government should seek international help and assistance in mitigating arsenic infestation in these areas as early as possible (The Independent, 24. 03. 12).
Arsenic poisoning and its economic impact
Thursday, 29 March 2012, Arsenic is a Class A human carcinogen. The contamination of groundwater by arsenic is a public concern that needs to be addressed on an emergency basis due to its widespread usage in both agriculture and industry. Although over the past decade and a half, activities ranging from documenting health effects in Bangladesh to revision of international drinking water guidelines have been underway, the depth of the problem has not been fully understood by the government, although scientists are perhaps now beginning to understand a bit more about the processes. For example, it is possible to predict the at-risk wells a little more accurately than before; so, with just a little more effort, it could be that we can come up with strategies for controlling the water quality. Apart from water, current environmental protection regulatory standards for arsenic contamination in soils, regardless of the taxonomic, geographical differences and land uses, have not been able to provide us with an adequate assessment of arsenic contamination. One study undertaken some years ago indicates that concentrations of total iron and phosphorous are the two most important soil properties that influence arsenic background levels in near-pristine soils.
As groundwater is still the main source of drinking water for about 90 per cent of the population, one of the main problems facing Bangladesh is that consumption of arsenic on a daily basis reduces the productivity level of an individual. The fact that so many people still have to grapple with what has been called the largest mass poisoning of a population in history, is a disgrace because, since its discovery in the late eighties, no really concerted effort has been made to combat it.
Long ago the World Health Organisation said if contaminated water can be replaced with clean drinking water, a victim of arsenic poisoning can be brought back to good health. But this has never been achieved; while drinking 1 litre a day of contaminated water at high concentrations puts as many as 13 per 1000 persons at risk of dying from cancer of the liver, lung, kidney or bladder Therefore bringing relief to those suffering from arsenicosis should be the main concern no matter how difficult it is. We must therefore endeavour to do this before the population of Bangladesh is decimated or too sick to contribute to national prosperity and becomes a burden. We cannot allow our future generations to become such an intolerable burden on the nation both in terms of finding a place in the global market and our national economy (The Independent, 29. 03. 12).
Arsenic level way beyond limit No move yet to seal tubewells
Tubewells in seven wards of Chittagong City Corporation are pumping water with arsenic contamination 10 times higher than the safe level. The wards' low-income group people are especially exposed to arsenic related diseases as they drink and use water from those tubewells to meet daily necessities. CCC and other authorities have so far taken no initiative to protect the endangered population, alleged local residents.
CCC and Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) are rather pointing fingers at each other, saying it is the other's duty to detect and seal the contaminated tubewells. Users of those tubewells do not even know that they are being exposed to high levels of arsenic.
The findings were revealed by a recent survey jointly conducted by the Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (Cuet), and the Institute of Engineers of Bangladesh, Chittagong. The seven affected wards are East Sholoshahar, South Kattali, West Bakalia, East Bakalia, South Bakalia, North Agrabad, and North Halishahar.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), 0.05 ppm (part per million) arsenic in water is safe for human body. But tubewells in North Halishahar and East Sholoshahar are pumping water that contains 0.5 ppm arsenic, 10 times higher than the safe level.
Dr Swapan Kumar Palit of the civil engineering department at Cuet said the seven wards have been identified as more risky. His department has done a detailed survey in East Sholoshahar recently. Of the 233 tubewells in ward 6 of East Sholoshahar, 99 pump water with high levels of arsenic, said Dr Swapan, who is the key researcher in the survey.
Areas affected by the highest level of arsenic in the ward are Baraypara, Ghasia Para, Chairman Ghata, and Omar Ali Matabbar Road, Swapan said adding that generally low-income group people and slum dwellers live in these areas with no water supply from the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). Dr Swapan said the survey was launched in 2008. He said CCC and PHED should seal the contaminated tubewells, so no one could be affected (Daily Star,April 2, 2012)
Law to ensure safe water stressed
Arsenic contamination Puts over 7 crore lives at risk
The recent reports on arsenic contamination throughout the country are alarming. Over 7 crore people are said to be at risk from arsenic contamination, while over 2 crore people are actually drinking unsafe water. Though the current government in its last election manifesto had promised arsenic-free water supply to the people, it is yet to fulfil the promise. In fact, while more people have access to arsenic-free water due to safe water supply projects from the government, there are currently no projects directly related to arsenic pollution, and committees which were formed to deal with the problem have been inactive for years.Content
Neither are we clear on the actual extent of the problem and, even more so, that of the health repercussions. The 2010 figures of 56,758 patients suffering from arsenicosis may be an understatement. For, while some people are visibly suffering the consequences, reflected in skin problems including skin cancer, others may well be suffering unknowingly, with the contaminated water aggravating conditions such as cancers of the bladder, kidney and lung, diseases of the blood vessels of the legs and feet, diabetes, high blood pressure and reproductive disorders. These figures are unknown and excluded from government statistics, making it even more difficult to actually do something about it.
While the problem is, literally, deep-rooted, there are ways out. Safe water supply is the first and foremost necessity in countering arsenic contamination, for many people in the country knowingly drink contaminated water simply because they have no source of safe water. Committees must be reactivated to investigate the current extent of the problem and identify and implement solutions, such as installing deep tube wells wherever necessary. The government must go all out to tackle the problem which is putting crores of lives at risk. What can we claim to have achieved as a nation if we cannot provide our citizens with a need as basic as safe drinking water?(Editorial, Daily Star,April 3, 2012)
80m people at arsenic risk
Bhuiyan (Minister in charge Arsenic Mitigation) tells parliament UNB, Dhaka, June 14, 2004:
Some 80 million people in 59 districts are at arsenic risk, but not in vulnerable state, LGRD Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan told parliament yesterday. Replying to Md Amzad Hossain Sarkar, he said to face the arsenic threat the government recently had approved "Bangladesh Arsenic Policy 2004" and "Mitigation Plan." The minister said it would help tackle the problem of the chemical poisoning of groundwater.
"Under this policy steps have been taken to supply safe water in different parts of the country," he told the House. The government, giving top priority to solving the problem, is implementing 14 projects to provide safe water to arsenic-prone areas.
In reply to a question from Rowshan Ershad, he said that to provide safe drinking water in rural areas under GOB-4 project,
4,700 deep tubewells in upazials, 1010 deep (Tara), 2342 tubewells, 1986 Tara, 305 PSF (Pond Sand Filter), 1085 ring wells, 600 wells/reestablishing water sources and to supply water through pipeline in 92 villages are underway.
There are 68,000 thousands villages in Bangladesh. Most of LGRD Ministry's present targets have failed to solve arsenic prbleme. For example PSF (Pond Sand Filter), deep tube wells and tara pump (dangerous for children) etc. have failed.If Government intends to set deep tubewells
It is painful to see wastage of money of the taxpayers. PSF (Pond Sand Filter) has been rejected by the rural population as it does not work and most of the ponds are contaminated with biological and chemical contaminants. Deep tubewells are wrongly constructed, and even where it is not necessary (We have shown at places where deep tube wells pour saline and arsenic contaminated water, but we found low cost arsenic free (below standard) aquifers at the same place. Dug wells can not be constructed every where, maintainance of dug wells is a probleme. Holocene geology is not known to LGRD Ministry. There is any lithostratigrahic map exists in bangladesh. Without knowing ground water geology any attempt to mitigate arsenic will be a failure as in the past
Governments (we have had three, including the present, since arsenic in tubewells became known) and the donors and development agencies have wasted nearly a decade, first trying to trivialise it, then suppressing the fact and lately waking up, albeit slowly. But we are still far from a well-thought-out national policy that can address all the aspects of the tragedy (Editorial, The Bangladesh Observer 16. 01. 02.)
We fail to understand why a comprehensive mitigation programme has not been achieved since almost all concerned have admitted that it is a serious threat to human lives.
To my knowledge, till date it's really very difficult to get valid information from most of the organisations. A large proportion of the organisations /individuals think that data are their property and shouldn't be shared with others. They don't even document their works and information in the form of report or publish the information in any journal (The Daily Star,11. 01. 02) .Till today September 3, 2003) the attitude has not been changed.
Our project proposals have been rejected by the Ministry of Local Government and Resource Development and Ministry of Health, responsible for health and mitigation although it was a fraction of the money they spent.
We wish that mitigation becomes successful. But difficult to believe as it continues to be the same.
The Bangladesh Observer in an editorial comments (16. 01. 02),
It needs no telling that everybody moving in the donor-development circuit seems to have been jumping on the arsenic bandwagon ever since the problem surfaced but precious little have resulted as far as mitigation is concerned. But so far we have seen only a proliferation of NGOs, assorted consultants, bottled water and filter sellers and what not, catching larks, so to say, while the poisoning continues.
"The situation is bad.": The government's Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) is trying to provide arsenic-free water: But where is their work?
About two lakh people of eight unions under Faridpur Sadar Upazila have been suffering from various illnesses for long due to drinking underground water contaminated with arsenic. Many families of different villages under the upazila have no other alternative to drinking contaminated water as 80 percent of the tube wells in the upazilla are contaminated, according to NGO Forum for Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation sources.
The villagers who are affected by arsenic are gradually losing their physical strength to work. The phenomenon is also affecting local agricultural and livelihoods of the villagers. During a visit to some of the affected villages including Char Kamlapur, Bil Mahmudpur, Dewan Kandhi, and Purba Gangabordi on February 10 and 20 this correspondent talked to Akir Hossain, 35, of Bil Mamudpur under Aliabad Union, who said, "All the members of our family including my wife, brothers, sisters are affected by arsenic."
In Dewan Kandhi village under Machhor Union, Banu Khatun, 45, said nine of her family members including herself are affected by arsenic. At Char Kamlapur, Sheikh Ohibur Rahman, a rickshaw-puller said, "Now after being affected by arsenic I become tired after pulling rickshaw for five to six hours whereas earlier I could pull all day long from morning to evening."
Still his family is drinking arsenic tainted water and using it for cooking from a contaminated tube well as they have no alternative source of water. He also said a few years ago he had gone to the government healthcare centre in the upazila with lesions on his skin but the doctor sent him back saying that he had a simple skin disease.
Devastating slow poisoning of a population has already started to manifest itself with visible signs like skin lesions on most of the villagers, some of whom have lesions on the whole body.
Condition of some are worse as arsenic has already started to affect their livers, kidneys, lungs and intestines. The villagers claimed that some of them died from illnesses related to consumption of arsenic tainted water. Nilufa, a student of class five, of Char Mamudpur said, "My father and my uncle died a few years back because of drinking poisonous water. They had severe skin lesions. We are also drinking the same water as we don't have any alternative source."
Admitting that there is high ratio of arsenic in the water in Sadar Upazila as well as in other upazilas of the district Md Nasiruddin Khan, deputy commissioner of Faridpur, said, "It is true that ratio of arsenic in underground water is high in the district. But the government's Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) is trying to provide arsenic-free water."
When asked about the deaths, the deputy commissioner denied such incidents saying although arsenic is present in the district the allegation of deaths is 'not correct' and 'not acceptable'. Md Awlad Hossain Sharif, regional manager of NGO Forum for Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation said, "The situation is bad." NGO Forum is trying to supply arsenic-free water in some areas of the district using its own technology, he said The maximum tolerable limit of arsenic in water in Bangladesh is 0.05mg per litre but in 80 percent of the tube wells in the villages in Faridpur Sadar Upazila the level is much higher, said NGO Forum sources.
NGO Forum is providing its support in some areas of Sadar Upazila and Bhanga Upazila through its community based rainwater harvesting plant, arsenic iron removal plant and deep tube wells. Out of the 64 districts in the country, 61 are affected by arsenic contamination in underground water (Abdul Kader, back from Faridpur Daily Star, February 22, 2006).
Concluding with the Daily Star comments (January 15, 2002):
- NGOs are generically fund seekers and now provider of employment. Most of them have almost no reality beyond this. And this generally grovelling bunch conveniently represents the public face in the eyes of the donors who ultimately decide policies.
- Not because they want to but because they have to. The ability of the national counterparts is so low that they would not be able to formulate a policy without donor support. They are unable to disagree either because that might mean fund cuts.
- So it all ends up in the same basket.
Nothing has changed yet ( May 23, 2011).
Last modifiedJune 2, 2012.
Top of page